I love my family. Like most people I admit family is a very complex system. This truth came home to me once again while reading THE TASTE OF SALT by MARTHA SOUTHGATE. In this novel I met the Henderson family. There is Josie, the daughter. The son is Tick. There is Ray, the father. There is the mother, Sarah. Then, There is Daniel. He is Josie's white husband. Josie is Black. They are a biracial couple. For different reasons Josie's childhood was uniquely painful. Her father was an alcoholic. She would live to see her brother Tick fight the same disease. This is the way Josie describes herself and family.
"I am, in part, the sum of all who came before me, my parents and brother, their parents and siblings, and on and on, back onto the slave ships and then back farther, back to Ghana and the slave castles at Elmina and to wherever my ancestors were before that."
Josie's way of defining family, observing family made me realize that parts of our family, the why of it all, will always leave me with more questions than answers. It also left me thinking about who am I to judge how one person handles his/her pain versus how another person might handle circumstances. The family is like a huge, fun, hair splitting jigsaw puzzle.
I liked the novel because it's reality based. There is possibilities for success in life. There are possibilites for failure. With the best of intentions, some of us aren't going to make it through a complete life. On the other side of the balance sheet are the people like Ray who make it. They have fallen but have gotten up again successfully. For those who make it, what made their success possible? Was it a memory of a child? One time Ray remembered Josie.
"I'm so proud of her. When she was a little girl......I used to watch her out in the backyard....She could turn on the hose and watch that water run out of it for hours on end."
The Taste of Salt by Martha Southgate is about addictions. There are all sorts of addictions. A person can become addicted to love. That's complicated too. Martha Southgate writes about Ben and Josie.
"I wanted to feel the way I felt--the way we felt--that first time we made love. That's an addiction, of course. But you can never get back that first high. You just keep looking for it, no matter how much damage you cause."
From Cleveland to Woods Hole, Connecticut Martha Southgate's novel is filled with the mysteries of life, the adventures of life. Life isn't a straight line. It's not a circle. Perhaps, it's an ocean. Like Josie, I might find the answers to life by studying the dolphins and whales.
"I had spent my life studying the life all around us in the water. I had spent my life sifting it through my fingers and considering the light, thin bones. I had spent my life this way, considering how the life all around us passes away. And now I would see it in a face I'd always known."