Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia invites readers into the lives of several extraordinary/ordinary women who are separated by time, place, politics, and so many barricades built within themselves. The writing style is both simple and sophisticated; clear and poetic. I love when a novel shows me to myself while also revealing motives and experiences and thoughts entirely unlike my own, stirring empathy and understanding in all cases. This novel did that for me.
While exploring the personal and political lives of these Cuban mothers and daughters, traveling with them as they made choices or choices were made for them, and considering the cultures we create and how we are both powerful and powerless in the making of our world, I easily recognized myself and other strong women in my family.
There are some pretty dark and uncomfortable experiences that are referred to in this story - molestation, domestic abuse, addiction, to name a few - but the author does a powerful job of revealing just enough. Inviting us into the trauma without asking us to relive it. In the case of the molestation, for example, it is quite similar to the molestation I myself experienced at a similar age. I also chose to believe and feel similar things, and act out in similar ways, and put myself down with almost the exact same language as Jeanette - one of the central women in the book. Yet I did not find it triggering and, instead, felt understood and a little bit absolved. I cannot say it will be the same for others, but I do hope so.
The use of time is brilliantly done. Because the theme, as I understood it, was how the actions we take - particularly as mothers - and ways in which we choose to hide, share, embrace, deny, explain, or forget those actions, weave themselves into the lives and environments of others - particularly our children and their children. Near and far away. In our present and long into the future. As we skip time and place in the chapters of this book, from Mexico to Miami, Cuba to Texas; from addiction in 2018 to cigar rolling in 1866; from fearing the nearby revolution will murder your family at home to swimming dangerous waters - family-less and alone - to try to make another place your home, we bring with us the memories and acts of previous chapters and are as affected by them as the characters we're reading about are. Though we are given the gift of knowing it.
This knowing, and again I love this, does not exactly give us answers. It is complex and unknowable how our actions will affect our people. But they do affect them. In my mind, this is an argument for being your most authentic, fearless, thoughtful self. For being open to evolving and growing consistently more authentic, fearless, and thoughtful. For being someone who is confident that when their actions influence people - and they will - those actions were ones you can explain with honesty.
"We are force. We are more than we think we are."
Particularly, in the case of this book, if we are mothers and daughters.
This is a lovely book. I recommend it to any reader. Particularly, mothers and daughters.