Publication Date: September 2011
My mother named me after Josephine Baker. I think she was hoping I’d be more artistically inclined. The sort of woman who would sing as she swayed elegantly through the streets of Paris. The sort of woman who would have many men at her feet. The sort of woman men would write songs about. Didn’t work out like that, though.
Josie Henderson is a smart 30-something African American woman. She’s done everything possible to have the life she lives as a scientist and wife to Daniel, a devoted husband and fellow scientist. For Josie, having that life means failing to acknowledge all parts of her childhood including her family. But when her little brother Tick relapses and lands into rehab once more, Josie is forced to play a bigger role in Tick’s life.
This book was a rollercoaster for me. At the story’s beginning, Josie is driving to a rehab center in her hometown of Cleveland, Ohio to pick up her Tick. Tick has been in and out of rehab for the past few years and this time the Henderson family is hoping that this is Tick’s last time. Josie is weary of Tick and their family but is willing to help just a little if it means sparing her mother more pain. That’s as close as Josie gets to being selfless. Throughout the book, Josie makes bad decisions after bad decision.
I understand the fact that she has to distance herself from her family after growing up with an alcoholic father, lonely mother, and absent little brother. Josie’s childhood was somewhat normal though she didn’t have anyone to turn to. That might be why she doesn’t feel a connection to her family as an adult. But Josie is still a character that’s hard to feel sorry for or even like much.
A high point in the book is when Josie’s trying to recreate her childhood and the things she doesn’t know about her family. We see Josie’s parents, Sarah and Ray, meeting for the first time, their hopes, dreams, and disappointments. The flashbacks bring minor characters to life but I think letting these characters speak for themselves instead of having Josie imagine them would have made this book so much stronger.
I’m glad I read The Taste of Salt. It’s not perfect but I’m finding that it’s a perfect book for discussion. My rating: 3 out of 5 stars.
A favorite quote from the book:
When I was eight, nine, ten, I was in love with my father. Of course I was. That’s what girls do. And despite all the hard times, there are some good days to remember. That’s what makes the bad ones harder to accept. I always though that if I could do just the right thing, if I could just say some magic words I didn’t know, that I could make the good days stay, maybe even multiply. That’s what people always think. That’s what’s so hard to let go of.