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.