The Taste of Salt

by Martha Southgate

(Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, $13.95, 288 pages)

Who is this author?

Martha Southgate, an African American writer, is a graduate of Smith College who is both a journalist and author of novels. Her magazine experience includes being an editor at Essence and a reporter for Premiere, and she also has been a reporter for the New York Daily News and a contributor to The New York Times. Her earlier novels, “The Fall of Rome” and “Third Girl from the Left,” won praise from book critics, as has her latest, “The Taste of Salt,” which was named One of O: The Oprah Magazine’s “10 Titles to Pick Up Now.”

What is this book about?

“The Taste of Salt” is a story about addiction and how it can bedevil but also bind a family over several generations. Josie Henderson has left her family in Cleveland for a prestigious position as a marine biologist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute on Cape Cod, but her professional rise is tempered by the personal challenges of dealing with the alcoholism of her father, Ray, and beloved younger brother, Tick. Josie’s husband is white and their marriage isn’t perfect: she’s familiar with addiction of the romantic kind. The story is narrated by several voices: Josie, her parents, brother and husband, who see the same events, but through their own personal prisms. Should this sister try to be her brother’s keeper, and is it even possible for her to help him to help himself? Those are questions that any family afflicted by addiction might ask. The answers are far harder to come by.

Why you’ll like it:

As we head into the season of family gatherings, many of us find that tensions old and new must be confronted or controlled, and “The Taste of Salt” explores family dynamics in a way that is easily understood. Southgate’s writing is strong on dialogue and compassion, and this novel, which has an autobiographical feel, reminds us that closeness has its costs as well as its rewards.

What others are saying:

With compassion and quiet grief, Southgate examines the ways families self-destruct even as they try to hold together,” says BookPage.

“The story of a family pushed to its limits by addiction over the course of two generations… Weaving four voices into a beautiful tapestry, Southgate charts the lives of the Hendersons from the parents’ first charmed meeting to Josie’s realization that the ways of the human heart are more complex than anything seen under a microscope,” says

Says Essence: “One of our favorite authors delves into a taboo topic: alcoholism in the Black community . . . Southgate is one of our most reliable tour guides inside the minds of fictitious Black rebels and outsiders . . . In a virtuoso balancing act, [she] tells [a] poignant story.”

When is it available?

You can find “The Taste of Salt” now at the Hartford Public Library.

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