Salt by Isabel Zuber: Book Review

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Cover of Salt by isabel Zuber
3 Stars

Title: Salt
Author: Isabel Zuber
Genres: Historical Fiction, Southern Literature
Format: Paperback


John Bayley meets Anna Stockton when she’s in her late teens. He decides right away that he’s going to marry her. She looks to be a strong woman who knows how to work. After burying two wives, that combination appeals to John. The rest of the book follows the ups and downs of their marriage and their relationship to the land.


My biggest issue with this book was that I somehow felt like I was watching a silent movie as I read it. I felt very much outside the story. I got the feeling that this was done on purpose so that I the reader would be more focused on what the author was trying to show me rather than on how I felt about each character or event. It was effective, but I do like to feel a connection to the characters I read about, so it wasn’t a style I cared for.

There was a lot going on in this book. The point didn’t really seem to be the story itself, but rather to explore man’s relationship to nature and also man’s relationship to other men. What I took away was a message about humanity’s need to dominate our surroundings and how futile that need is. Nature will win in the end. I also took away a message about the futility of our hopes and dreams and how we are ultimately so impermanent that we will be nothing more than a fleeting memory. This is all true, but it’s a little bleak for my taste.

The author is a poet and it shows in her lyrical, yet succinct prose. She says a lot in such a relatively short book, but she says it beautifully.

Salt left me thinking, and I believe I will think about it for a long time. But ultimately I did feel too far removed from the story to give it more than three stars. This will appeal to those who are more interested in a message than in caring about characters. It was a strong book, it just wasn’t necessarily to my taste.

Reviewed April 13, 2009

Check out other works of Southern historical fiction that I’ve enjoyed:

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I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop’s, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

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