Beverly Diehl's Reviews > The Salt God's Daughter

The Salt God's Daughter by Ilie Ruby
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Apr 11, 2013

it was ok
bookshelves: family, friendship, greek-mythology, mental-illness, romance, rape, contemporary-fiction

The seem to be a book that you either loved, or loathed. I actually did both. There were parts of this book that were wonderful, but as a whole, I felt it was too disjointed and painful to read.

It’s told in three parts; the first part is about Ruth’s childhood with her abusive/inspired homeless mother Diana and her sister Dolly. The second part is about Ruth’s adolescence and young motherhood, and includes her romance with a man she dubs the Salt God, who may or may not be a selkie. The third part is about Naida, Ruth’s daughter, and her youth and adolescence. There’s also a prologue and epilogue, which to me only muddled the book, rather than clarifying or tying it together.

The theme, I believe, is that a girl’s first love is her mother; certainly most of the book, including the last third, is about the relationship between mothers and daughters.

What I liked about this:

Mother Diana was obsessed with the phases of the moon, with the almanac, and trying to tie them to what had happened, and what she believed was going to happen, in their lives. She and the almanac called the moon different names: the Hunger Moon, the Wolf Moon, the Harvest Moon, and told stories and myths for how it related to the earth; sometimes it was a sibling, sometimes it was a child, sometimes it was the spouse of the earth.

I like that it was set in local areas to Southern California, and loaded with details. The Belmont Shore area of Long Beach, the Santa Ana winds, the Oxnard strawberry fields, the desert areas, the artfully disguised Long Beach oil derricks, the seals and the bougainvillea. This gave the book a very rich, sensual texture.

There were wonderful details about the time era: the green station wagon that Diana dubbed The Big Ugly, the obsession with soap opera General Hospital, and the theme of Luke and Laura and rape, the elaborations about the toys and the clothes.

I liked the recurring theme of the selkies, magical creatures who are generally seals at sea, but who can remove a magic cloak, and take on human form, on land. Ruth’s lover, Graham, seems to have all the characteristics of a selkie; it seems Ruth both wants to believe he is, and that he is not.

What I didn’t like about this:

The editor(s) should be shot, or at least flogged. There were so many distractions that were not cleaned up, so many doors that were opened that led nowhere, and so many bad grammar and spelling mistakes that totally ripped me out of the story.

For example, there’s a legend that the waterhorse (a legendary sea creature) causes earthquakes deep under the sea, by a shifting of tectonic plates. In the Salt God’s daughter, this is referenced three or four times. Except it’s always spelled as “Teutonic plates.” WTF is a Teutonic plate, and what does German crockery have to do with anything? Somebody serves up brisket in one place, and “briscuit” in another.

(view spoiler)

All in all, this was a very interesting read, and I felt like it had so much potential, but I still cannot say it was a good book. I hope the author goes on to write more, and I hope she works with a better crit group and editor.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Tabitha (new) - added it

Tabitha Blankenbiller The briscuit thing totally knocked me out too! Made me very angry that an editor would treat a writer's hard work this way.


Joyce I'm glad that I'm not the only one that had issues with this. It took me much longer to read this book then I care to admit. You did a great job at pointing out the problems that I had with it.


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