The Salt God’s Daughter

  • Review
By – January 21, 2013

Using the Celtic leg­ends of the selkie—sea lions or seals that also have a human form — Ilie Ruby tells a com­ing of age sto­ry — or rather, three sto­ries, about three gen­er­a­tions of women in one fam­i­ly who each learns to accept her­self. They search for love. The moth­er, Diana, says that women in her fam­i­ly haven’t got­ten it right since her grand­moth­er came to Amer­i­ca at six­teen on a long and dif­fi­cult sea voy­age to mar­ry the love of her life, and lived hap­pi­ly for anoth­er sev­en­ty years. 

Diana, sin­gle, has two daugh­ters and tries to make sense of her life by rely­ing on folk­lore and the Farmer’s Almanac; home­less, strug­gling, but resource­ful, most of the way. Dolly’s father is a man of the earth, a farmer; but Ruthie’s is The Wan­der­er,’ a man of the sea. A child teach­es her moth­er, Diana says; she’s a bet­ter per­son because of them. And her daugh­ters will be bet­ter mothers. 

Ruthie and her daugh­ter, Nai­da, each grows into her own iden­ti­ty, build­ing on the expe­ri­ences of the women before her. Each will be more ful­ly devel­oped and more con­fi­dent than her mother. 

The Salt God’s Daugh­ter is ele­gant­ly writ­ten, evok­ing poet­ry, mag­ic, and won­der; and yet it is so well drawn that one can see the land­scape and almost smell the flow­ers and the surf. This is a sto­ry that can be tak­en at face val­ue, in the mun­dane world, or viewed as a flight of fan­ta­sy, alle­go­ry, or metaphor.

Read Ilie Ruby’s Posts for the Vis­it­ing Scribe

Sydelle Shamah has been lead­ing book club dis­cus­sions for many years, and is a pub­lished sci­ence fic­tion writer. She was pres­i­dent of the Ruth Hyman Jew­ish Com­mu­ni­ty Cen­ter of Mon­mouth Coun­ty, NJ.

Discussion Questions