Josie Henderson is successful in some obvious ways. She’s the only black scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. She’s a gifted grant writer. She’s successfully left her dysfunctional family in Cleveland behind to pursue married life with a man who happens to be white.
Josie is also a woman who is running away. She refuses to reconnect with her alcoholic father, who has been sober for many years now, and hangs on to her girlhood anger toward him like a talisman. She steadfastly keeps her distance from her brother and only sibling, whom she used to worship but who now has desperate addiction issues of his own.
She is running away from her heritage and culture not only by refusing to share it with her husband, but by entering a field where she is unlikely to meet other African Americans who will be able to relate to it. As Josie works hard to insulate herself, her family keeps sucking her in. Eventually, tragedy occurs and Josie must begin to face the dark corners of her soul that she has fought so hard to obliterate. In returning to her past, she finds that even in the most desperate sorrow, there is also hope and redemption.
Martha Southgate’s A Taste of Salt is a beautifully written book that explores the influence of family and culture on one’s life, while also providing a clear-eyed look at the devastation that addiction causes for a person’s loved ones. Book clubs will love this book.
Algonquin Books; ISBN 978-1-56512-925-2; $13.95.