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The Salt Roads

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  1,297 Ratings  ·  182 Reviews
A landmark work by a brilliant young author, THE SALT ROADS transports readers across centuries and civilizations as it fearlessly explores the relationships women have with their lovers, their people, and the divine. Jeanne Duval, the ginger-colored entertainer, struggles with her lover poet Charles Baudelaire...Mer, plantation slave and doctor, both hungers for and dread ...more
Paperback, 416 pages
Published November 1st 2004 by Grand Central Publishing
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Jenny (Reading Envy)
This is the third book I have read by Nalo Hopkinson, still until Veronica chose it for the Sword and Laser pick, it was unknown to me. There is a lot going on here - African mythology, ancient ritual, an international cast of women spanning different time periods, magic or voodoo, slave revolutions, slavery, freedom, etc., etc. In fact I am feeling I should not have read it the way I did, all but 50 pages in one sitting. I feel like all of it is still swirling around in my head.

One thing I know
...more
Althea Ann
Undoubtedly, a tour-de-force of magical realism.

Here, Hopkinson does not merely aim to tell a story. She aims to create a collage illuminating the experiences of black women throughout history.

The first, and perhaps the primary character introduced is Mer, a slave in Haiti, shortly before the revolution. She faces hard decisions when faced with choices about whether to seek her own freedom or to stay and try to help the other slaves (she's the closest thing to a doctor they have). Love and loya
...more
Shannon
Jan 28, 2015 rated it liked it
There was lots to like about this book. I think it's the first time I've read about life on a sugar plantation and life as a slave in the Caribbean. Couple that with a few love stories unfolding and an impending slave revolt - it was enough to keep me tuned in.

However, there were a couple of things that brought it down to 3 stars for me. As the narrative vacillates between the three sets of characters, the connection comes through the gods that occupy the characters' bodies. I felt the movement
...more
Carly
Jan 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“I’m born from countless journeys chained tight in the bellies of ships. Born from hope vibrant and hope destroyed. Born of bitter experience. Born of wishing for better.”

It’s hard to describe The Salt Roads. It’s an interweaving of three disparate historical legends and an exploration of gods and archetypes, but it uses these fragments to try to construct a far larger story. The story starts with Mer, a slave in Saint Domingue, but later weaves in two more, with the goddess Ezili as the link be
...more
CaseyTheCanadianLesbrarian
My first thought after beginning to read The Salt Roads by Nalo Hopkinson was “Why did it take me so long to read this book? It’s SO AWESOME.”

My second thought: “Holy crap, there’s lesbian sex twice in the first fifteen pages—why doesn’t the blurb for this book make it clear that’s it’s queer?”

Uh, let’s back track a little. I’ve read Caribbean-born and raised, current Torontonian Hopkinson’s first and most recent book and enjoyed both, but I really loved The Salt Roads. It’s an ambitious, wide-r
...more
Nikki
Originally received to review, but I’ve picked it up legitimately since, because wow, it’s been a while. I’ve been meaning to read Nalo Hopkinson’s work for a while — I know I got partway through The Midnight Robber at one point, and I’m not sure why I stopped; it wasn’t lack of interest — and from other reviews, this sounded great. In many ways, I’m not entirely sure how to judge this: it’s about black people, about a mythology that links between time and space, and it’s full of pain and degrad ...more
Rob
Executive Summary: This is a book I would have never read if not for Sword & Laser, and while I didn't love it, I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. My main criticism is that it had far too little fantasy for my liking.

Full Review
I struggled with the start of this book. I didn't know what was going on, and it didn't feel like a fantasy story at all. I never fully came to enjoy Jeanne as a character, so that probably didn't help things.

A friend of mine who finished it before me, told m
...more
K.J. Charles
An extraordinarily powerful and strange book. This is a brutal read about the suffering inflicted on black people (slavery in the sugar cane plantations, of which the detail is almost unbearable; racism in 19th century Paris) and about the particular pain felt by black women. The three main characters here (in three separate tales from different times) are a slave, a prostitute, and a slave prostitute. Considering which, it is an astonishingly hopeful read. Not because Hopinson gives us happy en ...more
Space Out With Sci Fi in June The Haunted Reading Room
Review:      THE SALT ROADS by Nalo Hopkinson

Beautiful storytelling, poetically imaged, lyrical and lilting, heart wrenching and heart lifting: THE SALT ROADS is an extraordinary offering, evocative of the Goddess of Love, Erzili, in many forms, characters, and continents; across eras, love and its companion, desire, survive and thrive, sometimes fully in blossom, others like desert plants struggling for water. Surely this will be a Best of 2015,
Stephen Richter
Feb 16, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: ebook
It took a while for me to get use to the writing style, did a little wiki research into the main character and by the end I found it entertaining.
Madeline
1. The Salt Roads is SO FRUSTRATING. Because there were a couple things I really loved about it and one or two things I hated with the fiery passion of a thousand suns. And those things seemed more significant to the book than the things I liked.

2. First of all, I love the idea of the novel. It's a powerful and layered concept for a book. There are so many angles to examine, and so many resources to mine, that the potential is enormous. It could have been remarkably affecting. It is certainly an
...more
Simone
Dec 02, 2012 rated it liked it
Review initially published on my blog, Writing by Numbers, here.

The salt roads are fluid. They flow across continents, ages, and realms, linking African women throughout history with their deities. Full of tears, sweat, oceans, blood, alcohol, piss, and sexual liquids of all kinds.

The salt roads are painful. Sometimes fogged with pain, sometimes raw with it.

The salt roads are paved with powerful desires. The characters hunger for food, luxuries, sex, love, companionship. Respect. Freedom.

There
...more
Amanda
May 17, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
a powerful work about the resilience of a people brilliantly written by Nalo Hopkinson. my only difficulty with this book was the three (or more) streams of narrative & the ethereal out of body being that links them all. i always find when a bunch of different narratives are going on at the same time that one is strongest & that's the one i am most interested in. in this case, the Haitian slaves working in the sugar cane fields were what caught my attention most. the storyline of Jeanne, ...more
Alexa
Jan 25, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fab-16, woc-16
Nope, this was not for me. A choppy, chaotic, discontinuous story-telling that never gave me a chance to connect with any of the characters, and supernatural elements that weren’t given enough reality for them to matter. I was so disappointed! (The best part of this was the author interview in the back – it left me thinking if only I were a better person I might have enjoyed this more. The story she said she wanted to tell sounded really interesting!)
Jack
May 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bookshelf, nist
7/10

Finally getting around to reviewing this. Or somewhat of a review; as usual I failed to take notes along the way, and it's now several weeks since finishing. Lets see what I can come up with.
The Salt Roads is a historical fiction/fantasy novel by Jamaican born Nalo Hopkinson. We have the story of Mer, a slave in Haiti, Jeanne Duval (actually a real person, apparently), the mistress of a Frenchman, and then later on in the novel, Thais, a prostitute in Egypt. Each story tells the tale of a w
...more
Titilayo
Dec 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing
if for no other reason than the use of the line: "No $%^^ babies" i really enjoyed this book . i am a bit confused as to why the spine said SCIENCE FICTION. there was very little science about it. i reckon the author's other works are actually sci-fi; because this book was full of loa, social climbing, promisicuity, bisexuality, and revolution of the personal & societal variety. i can dig it. it was well written. the themes tied together perfectly. characters were excellent. historical refer ...more
Joanna
Feb 10, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't have a good idea of how I feel about this. 4 stars for lovely language. 2 stars for violence and confusing plot.
Perry Whitford
Jun 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
Mer is a plantation slave in 18th century Haiti, lesbian and healer, contemporary and partial opponent of the insurrectionist Makandal. She is determined that her friends should endure their current circumstances, while holding on to their native beliefs and deities.

When ritually burying a fellow slave's still-born baby, the spirit of the Ginen goddess of love and sex, Ezili, is evoked and enters into Mer, where it projects into the minds of two other women from other times and places, similarly
...more
Casey
The Salt Roads loosely connects three narratives of three women in different time periods. Mer, a slave in Haiti around the 1750s; Jeanne, a mixed race courtesan to poet Charles Baudelaire in Paris in 1842; and Thais, a mixed race prostitute in Alexandria, Egypt 345 C.E.

Connecting their stories is the goddess, who goes by many names, who floats in and out of their bodies to experience their lives. This book doesn't have a driving plot, and is more experimental in nature, especially with some of
...more
Naima
Jun 20, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
This book is sexy and smart and i couldn't put it down. Please note that all of the cliches that I just wrote are rife with meaning.
Jlawrence
Mar 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A mix of historical fiction and magical realism, following three different women in three different time periods: Mer, a healer and plantation slave in cusp-of-the-revolution Haiti; the real-life historical figure Jeanne Duval in 1840's Paris, Haitian mistress to poet Charles Baudelaire; and Thais, an Ethiopian prostitute in fourth century AD Egypt.

Hopkinson links our main characters via a framing device: African goddess Lasirén/Mami Wata, fragmented by the slave trade's dispersion of her peopl
...more
Michael Burnam-Fink
May 19, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017, fantasy
A powerful work of magical realism, The Salt Roads follows four connected stories of black queer women across time and space. Metante Mer is a medicine woman and slave in what would become Haiti, trying to survive. Jeanne Duval is the (historical) mistress and muse of poet Charles Baudelaire in 19th century Paris. Thais is a 4th century Egyptian prostitute and slave who goes on a pilgrimage. Between them all, in fragmentary BEATS and BREAKS is the African goddess Lasirén or Ezili, of water and l ...more
Robyn
Apr 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is not an easy book. Most men would probably find it difficult because it assumes knowledge and experience they can not have.

It's beautifully written and like all well-written books, it's less about the characters of those within its pages than it is about what they represent, while not in any way slighting the characters themselves.

To condense it, their experiences are hard. These women of colour endure much; one with the more physical burden of being a slave on a plantation in the tropics
...more
Mocha Girl
Oct 22, 2009 rated it really liked it
Nalo Hopkinson's The Salt Roads centers on the spirit, Ezili's (a goddess of love and seduction) emergence in three women throughout time. The reader gets a glimpse of her in Mer, a lesbian slave woman healer, in the early 1800's on the Caribbean island of St. Domingue (Haiti) during a burial of a stillborn child. The second appearance is in the 1880's within Jeanne, a mulatto Parisian dancer and mistress to a white poet whose purse strings are controlled by his domineering mother. The third wom ...more
Alysa H.
Jan 24, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
A genre-busting novel that somehow manages to be equal parts timeless, timely (in its 2015 re-release), and just a little bit dated, The Salt Roads captures the feelings of different historical periods and attempts to tie them all together with a shining thread of spiritualism-cum-magical-realism.

Timeless: as a historical-fictional account of the lived experiences of women of color in different places and times, the novel can't help but speak to/of the past in a way that must always resonate.

Ti
...more
Margaret
Mer is a plantation slave in the Caribbean, a healer who both hopes for and fears liberation. Jeanne Duval is a Paris entertainer, lover of the poet Charles Baudelaire. Thais is a prostitute in Alexandria, who journeys to Jerusalem. Weaving their stories together across centuries are their shared experiences of oppression and a mysterious spirit who moves within them, prompting their actions, living their lives, and giving them hope. Hopkinson's style is lyrical, sensual, and full of vitality, a ...more
Jennifer
Feb 03, 2016 rated it it was ok
so... 2-stars, i guess. this book was a bit of a frustrating read because the flow was inconsistent, which made for a very clunky reading experience. i do appreciate very much hopkinson's efforts. i liked the ideas of connection over time and female empowerment. and i also enjoyed the settings and characters. i just wish it all worked together better. i feel like i could have read 3 standalone novels about each of the different women featured, because there was so much going on with each of the ...more
elizabeth • paper ghosts


“I wanted to believe that Makandal flew away, but my wishes can’t fly freely so. They’re rooted to the ground like me, who eats salt.”

«••● tl;dr & spoiler-free ●••»
An unflinching look into the world of slaves and prostitutes at different points in history, and the cruelties they bear and the hope they nurture. With a hint of magic sprinkled throughout, The Salt Roads examines the lives of three very different women and the goddess that connects them all. Graphic in both violence and se
...more
kari
Mar 21, 2016 rated it liked it
An ambitious, sensual novel that... doesn't quite live up to its premise. The intertwining stories of three Black women, all of whom can be read through the lens of an African goddess, are great as three separate narratives - it's the balance of this weave that doesn't work for me and puts me out of mood and immersion rather than into it. For the sake of my own reading experience, I'd re-read the narratives one after another. This way I can appreciate Hopkinson's flowing language and characteriz ...more
Kirsten
Mar 15, 2008 rated it really liked it
A beautifully written novel that tells how Ezili, the African goddess of love, becomes entangled in the lives of three women. The story alternates among the bodies/minds of several women throughout time, but she resides mostly in three women: Mer, an Afro-Caribbean slave woman/midwife; Jeanne Duval, Afro-French lover of decadent Paris poet Charles Baudelaire; and Meritet, the Greek-Nubian slave/prostitute known to history as St. Mary of Egypt. It's a sweeping story, in some ways much "bigger" th ...more
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Nalo Hopkinson is a Jamaican-born writer and editor who lives in Canada. Her science fiction and fantasy novels and short stories often draw on Caribbean history and language, and its traditions of oral and written storytelling.

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“How do I know anything? How is it that my arms stretched out in front of me are so pale? How to I even know that they should be brown like riverbank mud, as they were when I was many goddesses with many worshippers, ruling in lands on the other side of a great, salty ocean? I used to be many, but now we are one, all squeezed together, many necks in one coffle. ” 13 likes
“They are me, these women. They are the ones who taught me to see; I taught me to see. They, we, are the ones healing the Ginen story, fighting to destroy that cancerous trade in shiploads of African bodies that ever demands to be fed more sugar, more rum, more Nubian gold.” 2 likes
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