The Taste of Salt
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The Taste of Salt

3.38 of 5 stars 3.38  ·  rating details  ·  1,183 ratings  ·  228 reviews
Award-winning novelist Martha Southgate (who, in the words of Julia Glass, “can write fat and hot, then lush and tender, then just plain truthful and burning with heart”) now tells the story of a family pushed to its limits by addiction over the course of two generations.

Josie Henderson loves the water and is fulfilled by her position as the only senior-level black scient...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published September 13th 2011 by Algonquin Books
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Having grown a bit weary of literary fiction featuring black characters saddled with slave narratives, civil rights-era plights, or unspeakable acts of abuse, I felt relieved to find this contemporary novel centered on an everyday, middle-class family dealing with the uneven dynamics surrounding addiction, and the coping mechanisms they employ in the name of emotional survival.

Josie Henderson's lifelong love for the ocean has translated into a successful career in marine biology. Now settled ne...more
The Taste of Salt chronicles the effects of alcoholism on an African American family. Liquor destroys a marriage that begins with much promise, its grip not loosening on the father until he has been sent off to make a new life for himself. Their son Tick becomes an alcoholic as well, remaining sober for long enough stretches to set up an enviable situation working on the training staff for a NBA team, but repeatedly losing his battle to take things "one day at a time" and having to start all ove...more
this starts off quite simply. a 30-something african american woman is a marine scientist at woods hall, which is a pretty groovy place in which to be a marine scientist. at first the novel focuses on this über-unusual fact, an african american woman, still young, as a senior scientist at a prestigious institution. so blah blah about her always being the only black person in the room, and sometimes even the only woman and in the room, and blah blah about how much she loves water and her job and...more
As I was reading this two words came to mind (and remained ever present): train-wreck and tragic. This is a simple tale told through the eyes of Josie and you get to experience the story from her overarching perspective. It's also told in other voices (her mother, her brother Tick, her dad Ray & minor contributions from two other characters) but it's obvious Josie's voice serves as the center. Because it was in first person, the text felt very personal especially because it seemed Josie &...more
Larry Hoffer
Josie is a marine biologist, one of only a few senior-level black women in her position at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. In achieving professional success, she has finally been able to free herself of her childhood in Cleveland, of her alcoholic father and addicted younger brother, and she can spend her time in the ocean, where she loves to be more than anything. But she has never fully disentangled herself from the trauma and disappointments of her childhood, and that has a ripple eff...more
Mocha Girl
Martha Southgate’s The Taste of Salt is a sensitive story centered on a woman attempting to save herself from her family and the serious repercussions that develop from her self-imposed separation. Josie is an accomplished marine biologist from Cleveland, OH raised modestly in a hard-working middle-class family; her father is largely a self-taught retired auto worker, her nurse mother is the daughter of a doctor. She and her younger, good-looking and popular brother (Tick) bonded in early childh...more
The Taste of Salt is a tour de force. The writing itself was mostly excellent, but what made it so strong for me personally was the way I felt both spoken to and skewered. Josie, the protagonist, is a ferociously (at times aggressively, defensively) smart woman.

She’s obsessed with the ocean, and has given it a sensual starring role in the otherwise buttoned-up, anhedonic way that she lives her life. This is not to say that her life is completely without pleasure. But it is to say that her relati...more
In The Taste of Salt, Martha Southgate has written a book that could be about me, my life and how I experience life. Depending on what your story is, you may not relate to the book as deeply and instantaneously as I did. Read it anyway.

The Taste of Salt is narrated by Josie Henderson, marine biologist, wife of a scientist, daughter of an alcoholic, sister of an alcoholic addict. It's the story of Josie's current life, but told partly through the lens of her entire story. And isn't that the way o...more
The cure for anything is salt water-
sweat, tears, or the sea.

These words by Isak Dinesen begin The Taste of Salt and I don't think I've ever seen a quote used more appropriately. All three play roles in this family story mostly about how addiction affects the members - users and non-users.

Josie Henderson has always been drawn to the sea. Even when the only body of water she could get to was a river in her hometown of Cleveland. Growing up as the daughter of an alcoholic, Josie left home as soon...more
Mistinguette Smith
Like Southgate's previous novel Fall of Rome, Taste of Salt is about African-American characters who are of the post-civil rights generation who live in mostly white places. Taste of Salt is very much a black woman's story, and is both compelling and disturbing. For this generation, anything was supposed to be possible, even becoming President. And like the Obama Presidency, Taste of Salt show how race and class still profoundly shape and truncate what should be triumphant experiences.

This no...more
My Review (tread lightly, spoilers abound):
I received TToS from Jen, Devourer of Books, as the November Book Club read. I am happy I received it; I don’t think I would have picked this book on my own accord, and I think I would have been missing out. Southgate is a brilliant author, and I would like to read more of her work.

TToS tells the history of a family, told in several voices: Josie, our black female marine biologist; Tick, her recovering alcoholic brother; Ray, her recovering/recovered a...more
The Henderson family is all too familiar with the claws of addiction. Despair and disappointment are not strangers amongst this family of four, plagued by the torments of substance abuse. The Taste of Salt is a compelling story that highlights the tribulations of addiction as well as the emotional, physical and mental effects it sustains on a family.

Martha Southgate created quite an intriguing read, with an equally captivating title. Throughout the narrative, salt is used metaphorically to desi...more
Ok, I'm going a little bipolar with my review. I would like to say this book had all the makings of something great, however it fell flat. The story at hand didn't stir emotion. It did not get me close to the characters and it didn't take me on a journey thru this family's life, as was intended.

What I did like...was an African American family being shown to me in a positive light, as a normal family struggling like most do. I love that they are all hard working educated people. I loved being ab...more
Sarah Weathersby
Josie Henderson is a black marine biologist in a profession dominated by white men. She's a free spirit held back by the bonds of a dysfunctional family, and a loving (white) husband who wants children. She married him because he understood her passion for marine life. Yet she is afraid to trust him with her family conflicts because she thinks he doesn't "get" being black.

Then along comes a black male marine biologist whom Josie thinks understands it all, the black thing, the sea and diving thi...more
I wanted to like this book. I loved the idea of Josie. She is the ice princess, the smart girl who works hard and gets herself out of a tough home situation (as a child of addicts who herself struggles with addiction and strives to walk the line between understanding and rejecting family I can empathize here when I normally won't).

There were some great passages:
"I'm afraid that I don't have enough to give, that I can't love a baby the way it needs to be loved. Sometimes I'm not even sure I hav...more
Lissa Notreallywolf
I feel somewhat sad to report that I felt this book failed it's promise. There aren't many books about the African American middle class, and probably even fewer that deal candidly with alcoholism and addiction. My book club got all excited about it because of the backjacket blurb about an African American woman in the sciences-she's a marine biologist, a topic which takes up perhaps six pages here and there. Since I am about as comfortable in the water as your average house cat, I had a sense o...more
When I decided to read this book, I chose it becasue of the cover and becasue I read the word "ocean" in the review. Ii was excited to see what a Black woman would write about the ocean. I have lived near the ocean my whole life. I love it and I love being in it.

Southgate delivers a story about the Black experieince. About coming from a working/middle class family and becoming something and becoming nothing at all. Most importantly it talks about the effects of substance abuse on a family. This...more
I missed the boat on this one. So many five stars; I could barely give it one. Dull/drab characters. Not at all engaging. Lots of lame dialogue. Here's an exchange between two marine scientists:

"Wow," he said, "What a beautiful boat."
I smiled.
"I know, isn't it? Sometimes I think I should pay them for letting me go out on it. Come on - let me show you."
We hopped on deck and I showed him all around as we pushed off - he oohed and ahhed and said "oh man, that's great" at everything.
"This is the b...more
Christie Williams
I did not enjoy this book, and my primary issue with it was in its structure. I found it extremely difficult to keep track of the various 1st person POVs that the author uses throughout the novel. Actually, there were 5 1st person POVs, and a couple of 3rd person POVs to be exact!

I did not find the characters believable, or even likeable. They were also flat, and I was often left wondering why they made some of the choices they made.

But, it was a quick and easy read. It ended rather abruptly. In...more
This was an enjoyable book to read. The author is very perceptive in her novel about flawed sibling and parent relationships and the relationships in this book were immediately relatable. I thought the characters themselves could have used a bit more fleshing out however. What was interesting about this book was that the author was able to so perceptively show the relationships between the characters and make the relationships feel very real and complicated without having characters that were to...more
Feb 24, 2013 Riya rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone that has a friend/family memeber that's an alcoholic or wants to learn more about addiction
3.5 out of 5 stars

This is a book about addiction - alcoholism, in particular, and the effects it has not only on the addict but on the whole family, passed down from generation to generation.

Our main character is Josie Henderson. Josie and her brother Tick grow up in a working class African-American family in Cleveland, Ohio. Their mother is a nurse and their father works in a car factory. Both of the children are smart and fortunate enough to attend a private school on a scholarship. As normal...more
Some have said this book is about addiction, I disagree. The novel is essentially about family and the dynamics surrounding familial communication or the lack thereof. So, potential readers don't let the "addiction" thing keep you from reading this book. You will be sorry you skipped it. Ms. Southgate is a very talented writer, and I hope she is headed for superstardom.

The story feels so real(I know it's a cliche)and flows so easily. Literally from page one you will be interested in the story t...more

I love my family. Like most people I admit family is a very complex system. This truth came home to me once again while reading THE TASTE OF SALT by MARTHA SOUTHGATE. In this novel I met the Henderson family. There is Josie, the daughter. The son is Tick. There is Ray, the father. There is the mother, Sarah. Then, There is Daniel. He is Josie's white husband. Josie is Black. They are a biracial couple. For different reasons Josie's childhood was uniquely painful. Her father was an alcoholic. Sh...more
The Taste of Salt is one of those novels that requires time to sit and stew on what was just read. The power of the novel only comes after the reader has had time to reflect. While it could be construed as depressingly realistic in its portrayal of family and addiction, there is an underlying beauty that rises to the top after time.

The name of the novel itself is a subtle hint to the pleasures and pain that await the reader. Salt itself can be delicious and necessary for life. At the same time,...more
Martha Southgate has written such a beautiful, haunting and complex novel that I loved! The language is enchanting and gorgeous, and she writes with emotion and care for her characters. This novel reminds me that no one is perfect. We are all human, and we all make mistakes. But sometimes our mistakes swallow us alive, sadly. There was a point in the book where I got so misty eyed, it really hit me hard. That's what a great novel does, it draws you in and resonates with you even after the last p...more
I had high hopes for this book. I read the strong support, even rave reviews. But, it falls flat to me. I just didn't connect with Josie or Tick in the way I had hoped. They seemed hollow because the voice (Josie) didn't ring true to me. The author wanted to show the characters like the subjects of Josie's research but she didn't dive deep enough for me, especially with the mother and father who were the epicenter and creators of all the chaos to come. I really wanted to like the book more and,...more
While I'm always ready for a deep, good novel to transport me into a new place, I failed to get to this place with this novel. Too many cliches, limited prose, fractured plot and annoying, flawed characters--- really left me thinking what was it the author wanted to get across. For the sake that reading time is too precious for me to waste, I suffered miserablly getting through this one. With the exception of a hand full of lines worth repeating, the rest left me wanting.....wanting a novel to r...more
didn't finish.
some good imagery but overall the story is very fractured. Southgate has taken on too much in this narrative (familial alcoholism, dissappointment, dissatisfaction in marriage, etc.). i did not like the narrative being passed around to different family members to tell but done so through the main character's eyes. she attempted to tell the family story through other's perspective, which feels disruptive and insincere.
Erika Marks
I picked this up after reading many good reviews and the cover spoke to me at once. I thought I'd start it, and frankly, I couldn't stop. Ms. Southgate's prose is truly like surf rising and falling up a beach--it is magnificent in its purity, its sparseness and its rhythm. At turns heartbreaking and yet hopeful, it continues to linger in my thoughts.
Jan 19, 2012 Sheba rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: kobo
Loved this book. [I haven't been able to finish a book so quickly in the last 3 years or so!]

Fast, easy read that delved into the dynamics of a family affected by alcohol. Though very sad at times, there are moments that warm the heart too.
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Martha Southgate is the author of four novels. Her newest, The Taste of Salt, is available in bookstores and online now. Her previous novel, Third Girl from the Left won the Best Novel of the Year award from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association and was shortlisted for the PEN/Beyond Margins Award and the Hurston/Wright Legacy award. Her novel The Fall of Rome received the 2003 Alex...more
More about Martha Southgate...
Third Girl from the Left The Fall of Rome Another Way to Dance

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“I was raised to respect books - the house was full of them. From the time I was little, it was drummed into our heads that books were almost the most important thing in the world, second only to getting a good education.” 2 likes
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