Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia
Published by Flatiron Books
Publication date: March 30, 2021
Genres: Book Clubs, Contemporary, Cultural, Debut, Fiction, Literary
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Jeannette is first-generation American in her Cuban family, but feels she knows nothing about her mother’s life or family left behind in Cuba. When asked, Carmen goes quiet. The only life she cares about is the comfortable one she has now in Miami. Ana is an 8-year-old girl who arrives home from an overnight stay at a babysitter’s house to find their home locked and no one answering the door. Two women and one little girl are braided all together in Gabriela Garcia’s novel, Of Women and Salt.
At 27, Jeannette is a recovering addict, who’s been in and out of rehab three times. She lives next door to Ana’s mother, Gloria, and watches late at night as an ICE van pulls up and takes Gloria away. The next morning, she sees Ana and takes the girl in, leaving a note on the door with her phone number, but unsure what else to do. When her mother finds out she is unequivocal that Jeannette must call the police. What’s unknown to any of them is that Gloria has already been sent out of Florida to a detention center in Texas.
With such a strong premise about women and a country I’m not familiar with, I expected Of Women and Salt to keep me glued to the page. Instead, I was able to set the book down for almost two weeks before picking it up again and finishing. The novel begins in the late 1800s in Cuba with Carmen’s great-grandmother. Her story of working in a cigar factory and of the political upheaval of the times was riveting. As was the potential story of a recovering addict caring for a lost little girl, but Garcia wrenches the narrative away a third time and it felt like a cord being cut.
I returned to Of Women and Salt, but the ensuing chapters, bring in more characters never allowed me to settle into the book. There is the wanton cruelty of America’s current immigration policy and its impact on Ana and Gloria, Carmen’s family history in Cuba, the genesis of Jeanette’s self-destructive behavior, what happens to Ana…each of these was enough on its own, but Garcia adds another element, that of Jeanette’s determination to get answers about her mother’s life in Cuba. This was one story too many for me. That plus whatever was missing in the beginning to keep me reading, meant Of Women and Salt was only 3 stars not 4. However, Garcia’s voice is a strong one and I hope she returns with more fiction about Cuba from an #ownvoices perspective.
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*I received a free copy of this book from Flatiron Books in exchange for an honest review.*