On Quinnipeague, hearts open under the summer stars and secrets float in the Sweet Salt Air...
Charlotte and Nicole were once the best of friends, spending summers together in Nicole's coastal island house off of Maine. But many years, and many secrets, have kept the women apart. A successful travel writer, single Charlotte lives on the road, while Nicole, a food blogger, keeps house in Philadelphia with her surgeon-husband, Julian. When Nicole is commissioned to write a book about island food, she invites her old friend Charlotte back to Quinnipeague, for a final summer, to help. Outgoing and passionate, Charlotte has a gift for talking to people and making friends, and Nicole could use her expertise for interviews with locals. Missing a genuine connection, Charlotte agrees.
But what both women don't know is that they are each holding something back that may change their lives forever. For Nicole, what comes to light could destroy her marriage, but it could also save her husband. For Charlotte, the truth could cost her Nicole's friendship, but could also free her to love again. And her chance may lie with a reclusive local man, with a heart to soothe and troubles of his own.
Bestselling author and master storyteller Barbara Delinsky invites you come away to Quinnipeague…
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|Edition description:||First Edition|
|Product dimensions:||4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.50(d)|
About the Author
BARBARA DELINSKY is a New York Times bestselling author with more than 30 million copies of her books in print. She has been published in twenty-eight languages worldwide. A lifelong New Englander, Delinsky earned a B.A. in psychology at Tufts University and an M.A. in sociology at Boston College. Delinsky loves knitting, photography, and cats. She lives in Massachusetts.
Date of Birth:August 9, 1945
Place of Birth:Boston, Massachusetts
Education:B.A. in Psychology, Tufts University, 1967; M.A. in Sociology, Boston College, 1969
Read an Excerpt
QUINNIPEAGUE LAY ELEVEN MILES FROM the mainland. With a year-round population of nearly three hundred, it was serviced by a daily mail boat that carried groceries and a handful of passengers, but no cars. Since Charlotte had one of those for the first time in her life, she proudly booked the ferry, boarding in Rockland on a Tuesday, which was one of only three days each week when its captain cruised past Vinalhaven to islands like Quinnipeague. Nicole had offered airfare to speed up the trip, but Charlotte flew everywhere else in life. This summer was to be different.
The car was an old Jeep Wrangler, bought from a friend of a friend for a fraction of its original cost. Giddy with excitement, she stashed the soft top in back, and, as the warm June air flowed freely through windows and roof, drove up from New York herself. She welcomed the time it would take. After a frantic two months of work to free herself up, she wanted to slow down, decompress, and maybe, just maybe figure out why she had agreed to a last summer on Quinnipeague. She had sworn she wouldn’t return, had sworn off painful memories.
But there were good memories as well, all of which had flooded back as she read Nicole’s e-mail in Ireland that day. She replied instantly, promising to phone as soon as she returned to New York. And she had. Literally. Right there in baggage claim while waiting for her duffel to come through.
Of course, she would come, she had told Nicole, only afterward doing the reasoning. For starters, there was Bob. She hadn’t gone to his funeral because she hadn’t had the courage to face even a dead Bob after letting him down—letting them all down—so badly. So she owed Nicole for the funeral, and owed her for the betrayal.
But obligation wasn’t the only reason she had accepted the invitation. Relief was another; Nicole herself had suggested the collaboration. And nostalgia; Charlotte missed those carefree summers. And loneliness; she spent her life with people, but none were family as Nicole had once been.
And then there was the book. She had never worked on a book, had never actually collaborated on anything, though it sounded like a piece of cake, having someone else run the show. When she thought about the people she would interview, Cecily Cole came to mind first. Talk about compelling characters. Cecily was island cooking in many regards, since her herbs were what made the food special. She had to be the centerpiece of the book. Talking with her would be fun.
Charlotte could use a little fun, a little rest, a little make-believe—and Quinnipeague was the place for that. Even now, as the ferry passed in and out of fog, reality came and went. You can’t go home again, Thomas Wolfe had written, and she prayed he was wrong. She expected some awkwardness; ten years and very different lives later, she and Nicole couldn’t just pick up where they’d left off. Moreover, if Nicole knew of her betrayal, all bets were off.
But if Nicole knew, she wouldn’t have asked Charlotte to come. Nicole Carlysle didn’t have a devious bone in her body.
Leaning out from the side railing, she caught a breath. There it was—
But no, just an ocean mirage quickly swallowed by the fog.
After moving past empty benches, she held tightly to the front rail. Anticipation had built since leaving New York, accelerating in leaps after New Haven, then Boston. By the time she passed Portland, impatience had her regretting the decision to drive, but that changed once she left the highway at Brunswick and started up the coast. Bath, Wiscasset, Damariscotta—she loved the names as much as the occasional view of boats, seaside homes, roadside stands. FULL BELLY CLAMS one sign read, but she resisted. Clams served on Quinnipeague were dug from the flats hours before cooking, and the batter, which was exquisitely light, held bits of parsley and thyme. Other fried clams couldn’t compare.
The ferry rose on a swell, but plowed steadily on. Though the air was cool and the wind sharpened by bits of spray, she couldn’t get herself to go inside. She had put on a sweater over her jeans when the ferry left Rockland, and while she had also tied back her hair, loose tendrils blew free. They whipped behind her now as she kept her eyes on the sea. Some called North Atlantic waters cold and forbidding, but she had seen others. Turquoise, emerald, teal—none moved her as gray-blue did. Seventeen summers here had made it a visceral thing.
Her camera. She needed to capture this.
But no. She didn’t want anything coming between her eyes and that first sighting.
Having relived it dozens of times in the preceding weeks, she thought she was prepared, but the thrill when the island finally emerged from the mist was something else. One by one, as the fog thinned, the features she remembered sharpened: jagged outcroppings of rock, a corona of trees, the Chowder House perched on granite and flanked by twin roads that swung wide for a gentle descent from town to pier, like symmetrical stairways in an elegant home.
That said, there was nothing elegant about Quinnipeague, with its rutted paths and weathered docks. But Quinnipeague wasn’t meant to be elegant. It was meant to be authentic. Shutters were practical things to be closed in the fiercest of winds, and, when open, hung crooked more often than not. Wood was gray, clusters of buoys tacked to the side of the fishing shed were bright despite their chipping paint, and the gulls that swooped in to perch on tall pilings always left their chalky mark.
Sailboats grew distinct from power ones as the ferry neared. There were fewer lobster boats than Charlotte remembered, fewer lobstermen she had read, though those who remained would be out pulling traps this Tuesday, hence moorings with only dinghies attached.
Her pulse sped when she saw a figure running down the pier, and in that instant, the bad of the past blew right back out to sea. She waved frantically. “Nicki! I’m here—here, Nicki!”
Like there were other people on the ferry. Like Nicole could possibly miss her. Like Nicole could even hear her over the thrum of the boat and the slap of waves on pilings. But Charlotte couldn’t help herself. She was a child again, having traveled alone from Virginia with her heart in her mouth and here, finally, so relieved to have reached the right place. She was a teenager, a seasoned flier now from Texas, electrified by the sight of her best friend. She was a college student who had taken the bus up from New Haven to summer with a family that wanted to hear about her courses, her friends, her dreams.
For all the places she’d been in the ten years since that wedding summer, no one had ever been waiting for her.
In that moment, seeing Nicole bubbling with excitement on the pier, her own relief was so great that she forgave her the timidity, the docility, the sheer agreeableness that had made her such easy prey for betrayal—traits Charlotte had seized on over the years to forgive her own behavior.
But this was a new day. The hovering fog couldn’t dull the reds and blues of the boats. Nor could the smell of seaweed overpower that of the Chowder House grill. Bobbing on her toes, she clutched her hands at her mouth to contain herself, while with agonizing precision and a grinding of gears, the ferry slowed and began to turn. She moved along the side to keep the pier front and center in her sight.
Beautiful Nicole. That hadn’t changed. Always petite, she looked positively willowy standing there on the pier. Always stylish, she was even more so now in her skinny jeans and leather jacket. The wind whipped her scarf, which likely cost more than Charlotte’s entire summer wardrobe—the latter being vintage L. L. Bean, emphasis on vintage, having traveled with Charlotte for years. Style had never been in her lexicon. The closest she came to it now were her flats, bought three years before at an open-air market in Paris.
Chug by chug, the ferry backed its snub stern to the end of the dock. The instant the captain released the chains and lowered the ramp, Charlotte was off and running. Throwing her arms around Nicole, she cried, “You are the best sight ever! You look amazing!”
“And you,” Nicole cried back, clinging tightly. Her body shook. She was crying.
Charlotte might have cried, too, her throat was that tight. Ten years and such different lives, yet Nicole was as excited as she was. Grasping at everything that had been so right about their summers together, she just held on, swaying for another few seconds until Nicole laughed through her tears and drew back. Running her fingers under her eyes, she explored Charlotte’s face. “You have not changed a bit,” she declared in the voice Charlotte remembered—high, not quite childlike but close. “And I still love your hair.”
“It’s the same old mess, but I love yours. You cut it.”
“Just last month, finally. I mean, I may still sound like I did when I was ten, but I wanted to look like an adult at least.” Blond and straight, her hair had always fallen to midback. Cut now in a wedge, it was shaped neatly around her face in a way that gave focus to the green of her eyes, which were luminous with lingering tears and suddenly anxious. “Was the trip okay?”
“It was fine—”
“But it was long, and you’re not used to driving—”
“Which was why I wanted to do it, and it was good, it really was—and for the record, Nicki, you always looked gorgeous, but this cut is very, very cool.” By comparison, Charlotte might have felt unsophisticated, if she hadn’t known that women paid big bucks for hair like hers, and as for her voice, which was neither high nor distinct, it got her where she needed to be.
Nicole was eyeing her shoes. “Love those. Paris?”
Charlotte grinned. “Absolutely.”
“And your sweater? Not Paris, but fabulous. So authentic.” Her voice grew urgent. “Where did you get it? I need one.”
“Sorry, sweetie. It’s a hand-me-down from a woman in Ireland.”
“So perfect for this place. It’s been a dismal, cloudy June. I should have warned you, but I was afraid you wouldn’t come.”
“I’ve survived dismal and cloudy before.” She glanced up the hill. “The island looks just the same.” Past the Chowder House were the general store left and the post office right, both buildings long and low so as not to tempt the wind. “Like nothing’s changed.”
“Little has. But we do have Wi-Fi at the house. Got it set up last week.”
“For just us two?” she asked to be sure. Nicole had initially told her that Julian would be up with her the week before, but was planning to leave before Charlotte arrived. If he had decided to stay on, it would change the tenor of her visit, putting the fragility of her relationship with Nicole front and center.
But Nicole was all cool confidence. “Hey. We deserve it. Besides, if I don’t keep blogging, people will lose interest and wander away, and then there won’t be as many to hear me when I start pitching our book—which I feel a hundred percent better doing now that you’ve agreed to help. Thank you, Charlotte,” she said earnestly. “I know you have more important things to do.”
Charlotte might have insisted that this was as important a project as she’d done in a while, if a gruff call hadn’t cut off the thought.
“Hellooo.” The ferry captain shot a thumb at her Jeep. “Gonna get it off?”
“Oh.” She laughed. “Sorry.” Releasing Nicole, she ran back onto the ferry and slid behind the wheel. By the time she revved the engine, Nicole was in the passenger’s seat, sliding a hand over the timeworn dashboard. “I am paying you for this.”
Charlotte shot her a startled look and inched forward. “For this car? You are not.”
“You wouldn’t have bought it if it weren’t for my book, and you won’t take money for that.”
“Because it’s your book. I’m just along for the ride.” She laughed at her own words. “Can you believe, this is the first car I’ve ever owned?” She eased it onto the dock. “Is it real or what?”
“Totally real,” Nicole said, though momentarily wary. “Safe on the highway?”
“It got me here.” Charlotte waved at the captain. “Thank you!” Still crawling along, she drove carefully off the pier. When she was on firm ground, she stopped, angled sideways in the seat, and addressed the first of the ghosts. “I’m sorry about your dad, Nicki. I wanted to be there. I just couldn’t.”
Seeming suddenly older, Nicole smiled sadly. “You were probably better off. There were people all over the place. I didn’t have time to think.”
“A heart attack?”
“No history of heart problems?”
“That’s scary. How’s Angie?” Nicole’s mother. Charlotte had phoned her, too, and though Angie had said all the right words—Yes, a tragedy, he loved you, too, you’re a darling to call—she had sounded distracted.
“Bad,” Nicole confirmed. “They were so in love. And he loved Quinnipeague. His parents bought the house when he was little. He actually proposed to Mom here. They always said that if I’d been a boy, they’d have named me Quinn. She can’t bear to come now. That’s why she’s selling. She can’t even come to pack up. This place was so him.”
“Woo-hoo,” came a holler that instantly lifted the mood. “Look who’s here!” A stocky woman, whose apron covered a T-shirt and shorts, was trotting down the stairs from the lower deck of the Chowder House. Dorey Jewett had taken over from her father midway through Charlotte’s summers here and had brought the place up to par with the best of city restaurants. She had the gleaming skin of one who worked over steam, but the creases by her eyes, as much from smiling as from squinting over the harbor, suggested she was nearing sixty. “Missy here said you were coming, but just look at you. All grown up.”
A lifelong Mainer, she talked the part. Loving that, Charlotte laughed. “I was twenty-four when I was here last, no child then.”
“But look at you. That’s some sweater!” The sheer ebullience of the woman made Charlotte laugh again. “And Missy? Well, I’ve seen her these last years, but I tell you, the two a’ you put the rest of us to shame.” Her brows went up. “You hungry? Chowder’s hot.”
Chowdah, Charlotte thought happily. It was late afternoon, and she was starved. But Nicole loved to cook, and Nicole was calling the shots.
Leaning across the stick shift, Nicole told Dorey, “To go, please, with corn bread and fiddleheads.”
“You’ll be taking the last a’ those,” Dorey confided. “I had a vendor try to convince me to shrink-wrap and freeze, but they’re never the same. I only have ’em now because they’re from up north”—nauth—“and the growing season was late this year. They’d have been gone a week ago, if business hadn’t been slow, but the price a’ gas is so high, and no one’s out day-cruisin’ anyways when the wind’s so mean. Think you can tough out the chill?” she asked, seeming impervious to it herself with her bare arms and legs.
But Charlotte was still focused on hunger. “Maybe a couple of clams, too?”
“You got ’em. Drive up top. I’ll bring ’em out.”
Copyright © 2013 by Barbara Delinsky
Reading Group Guide
1. Quinnipeague is a fictional island, but based very closely on the many islands that dot Maine's coast and are popular with summer visitors. Have you been to a seasonal island or beach community on vacation? How was Quinnipeague similar to these places you've visited? What characteristics make Quinnipeague unique? What interesting dynamics play out in the story because of the seasonal nature of Quinnipeague? What differences did you find between the characters who are "locals" and those that are "summer people?"
2. One of the main plotlines is Sweet Salt Air revolves around Charlotte's and Nicole's efforts to write a cookbook. What is the significance of foodhow it's prepared, served, and appreciatedin Sweet Salt Air? What makes the island's food special to the two women? Do they view food, and the process of collecting recipes and the stories behind them, differently?
3. Talk about the characters' lives off the island of QuinnipeagueCharlotte, who lives in Brooklyn but travels constantly, and Nicole who is firmly rooted to her home in Philadelphia. What does each woman's lifestyle reveal about her personality? Do their lifestyle choices seem in keeping with what the novel reveals about them?
4. Both Charlotte and Nicole are keeping secrets at the start of the novel that they have no intention of revealing. And yet, they both ultimately do. Do you understand why each woman kept her secret from the other? Do you think one was more justified in keeping her secret? What did you think of each woman's reaction to the truth? Have you ever kept a big secret from a friend, only to reveal it later?
5. If you were Nicole, could you forgive Charlotte for what she did? Do you think there are some things in friendship that are unforgivable? Do you think Charlotte has forgiven herself? If yes, what happened on the island that allowed her to forgive herself? If not, what do you think she still needs to do?
6. Nicole and Julian face challenges, but every marriage is tested at one time or another. What do you think is the hardest test? Illness? Infidelity? Money? Are we stronger for the suffering? In what ways?
7. Cecily Cole is a presence throughout the book, despite her death several years earlier. How do the locals see Cecily and her garden? How does Cecily's spirit affect each character in the novel? How do Leo's descriptions of Cecily as a mother affect your view of her? Do you believe in the kind of lingering legacy that the women discover in the herbs and food of Quinnipeague?
8. Discuss the role of Salt to the story in Sweet Salt Air? Do you and your friends have the same taste in books? How do Charlotte's and Nicole's differing reactions to the book reflect their natures? How did you enjoy the experience of hearing about a book you could not read? Were you surprised when you learned who had written Salt?
9. Nicole is upset over Angie's relationship with Tom. Do you feel that she's justified? Have you ever witnessed a parent's romantic involvement with a nonparent of yours? What emotions were involved for you? For your parent?
10. Leo has a "bad boy" edge. Does this make him more attractive to Charlotte? Do you think a little rebellion is attractive? Leo has committed some crimes in his life, crimes for which he's served time in jail. What is your sense of how Leo's time in jail affected him? Has he changed? Does doing bad things make us bad people? And what about Charlotte, who's committed no crimes, and yet, she's done some terrible things? Would you characterize Charlotte as "bad?"
11. If you could ask the author anything about Sweet Salt Airclarification of a plot point, a detail about a particular character, scenes from the cutting-room floorwhat would it be? (You may choose to contact Barbara Delinsky, via her website or Facebook, and ask her!)
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Barbara Delinsky is a fine writer. Her new book is very thoughtful and moving. It is a story of great friendship. The characters are wonderfully developed and the plot is very interesting.
Why is it necessary for some of you who write your reviews to include the plots of the books and in depth details of events that occur in the book itself? Why can't you just leave those details out of your reviews? I want to read the book and be intrigued by the authors twists and turns, their character development, their plot. When you tell me everything in advance you basically ruin the book for me so why buy it? Thanks a whole lot a**hats!
A beautifully woven story that makes this a tough one to put down
Barnes and noble you should monitor comments---do not give story away just say if it is worth reading and stop with non book related comments--be fair to readers!
This book was perfect - friendship, romance and the beach - great beach book. Definitely recommend getting this to read. :)
'Sweet Salt Air' is a contemporary women's fiction novel that focuses on two women, Nicole and Charlotte, who were once best friends on the island of Quinnipeague. Since growing up, Nicole and Charlotte have slowly grown apart and lost the close relationship they once shared. Nicole is a travel writer, and when she is assigned to write a book about island food, she immediately invites her old friend to accompany her back to their childhood home. While there, both women must face the secrets they've kept from themselves and each other - and may cost them dearly if brought to light. Will they be able to fully open up to each other once again or will the secrets they have kept for so long tear their friendship apart? This was a beautifully written and heartfelt novel of friendship, love, loss, and the power of healing. The setting was perfect for the story - the small island of Quinnipeague really drew me in to the world that the author created. She tells the story with such detailed description and vivid imagery that I could easily imagine myself on the island alongside the characters. Speaking of the characters, Nicole and Charlotte were great leads in the book. Their relationship is long standing and full of complex emotions and secrets - just like most friendships are. I really enjoyed reading about both women and their relationship with each other as well as to others in their lives. The author did a superb job of creating a layered storyline for each character and then entwined them to make the overarching plot. All the parts flowed effortlessly together, creating a wonderful novel. The writing itself showcases the author's immense talent and her knack for revealing the complex nature of friendship and of people themselves. I highly recommend this book for fans of contemporary fiction and women's fiction - or for those readers who would like to sit back with a fantastic summer read. Disclosure: I received a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
Hadn't read a Delinsky book in a long time but decided to read this one! Very happy I did! The characters were very interesting although in a flawed way that really kept me intrigued. The setting in Quinnepeague Maine makes me want to summer there!
I really enjoyed reading this. It held your interest throughout .
This was a really great book...I loved every minute! Characters were well developed and I liked the way the story was told - by the perspective of both friends. I didn't want the story to end!
Boring, repetive, predictable and much too long for the story that was told---seems like a long version of the old time Harlequin romances. Used to love this author --what happened?
Very boring book.
The subject matter held my interest (though very far fetched) as well as the Quinnie lifestyle but the relationship between the friends was also hard to understand. I can see having a strong connection with a friend you last touch with but it seemed to strained to be real.
This was an absolute Must Read!
It was so easy to get into this book. There was more than just one story line, but they blended so well. I have always enjoyed her books and continue to do so. I do not like to tell the story, as others do, so I will just say that this one kept my attention and I looked forward to reading it evey night. It would make for a good book club read.
This book was thoroughly enjoyable. It's a story of two best friends that a lot of us can relate to. One of Barbara Delinsky's better books.
Noone quite writes a novel like barbara Delinsky... It has warmth and fiendship and disappontment and heartbreak and always a secret thrown into the mix... Seems she writes from the heart and grabs all the feelings one experiences in life. I guess you can tell I am a fan! Can't wait for the next book!
So many tragedies, so many beautiful outcomes. All of the characters with their faults and quirks were so real and each told a different story of love found, lost, and found again. I was left satisfied yet wanting more. This is "the" read of the summer.
My newest favorite by Barbara Delinsky. Held my interest from page one. I 've been reading her books from her first till this and she always pleases and this is no exception
Enjoyed the characters, the location and the story line.
Slow read. Takes awhile for story to develop, but if you stay with it, it is a good read. Very descriptive of area so that you feel you are actually there with the land and surf pounding at your feet.
A warm story about friendships that will steal your heart. Plus I love New England, and i wish this island exhisted so i could visit !
Maybe it's my love for herbs or for islands or big, affable dogs, but I enjoyed this book alot, even if parts of it dragged on a bit.
I can't think of anything that I've read by Barbara Delinsky that I haven't enjoyed. Her "romance" novels are not over the top but more like real life mixed in with romance. And I am really liking the seaside stories since my own visit to the shore not so long ago. Not able to explain that one, just how I feel.
Love Barbara Delinsky's books but this one was about 200 pages too long. I got so tired of reading about plants, gardens and spices. The story line was awesome but the rest was so boring.
You can tell that she has changed editors and publishing houses. This book is more tightly written and not as sappy and predictable as some of hers have been in the past. I will look forward to her next book to see if she keeps in this new writing style.