“The Salt House” by Lisa Duffy – Book Review

“…Gorgeously written, heartbreaking, yet hopeful debut set during a Maine summer traces the lives of a young family in the aftermath of tragedy.”

“the isolation of sorrow”

In a small Maine coastal town lives the Kelly family. Father Jack is a lobsterman. Mother Hope is a freelance writer for a parenting magazine. They have three two daughters. Jess is sixteen – Kat is eight.

Almost exactly one year ago, their third daughter, baby Maddie, passed away. The entire family is still reeling from their devastating loss.  Each experiences their bereavement in their own individual ways.  Each member of the Kelly family strive toward healing, but healing is slow to come…

The family were happy. They loved each other deeply and were in the process of renovating an old oceanfront dwelling called the ‘Salt House’.  They planned to move into this house when the renovations were completed. Now, still suffering, they are merely passing time. Living day by day with their sadness and unable to find solace from their loss.

The work of a lobsterman is arduous and exhausting. Jack works himself sick trying to pay the bills and the two mortgage payments.  Hope, riddled with guilt and self-recrimination, is unable to write for “Parent Talk” magazine as she feels that she is unqualified to advise other parents – hypocritical almost. 

Hope doesn’t want to make love anymore… She has lost all interest in the “Salt House”. She feels unable to face doing anything with Maddie’s ashes.  They reside in her closet wrapped in a baby blanket.

Jack and another lobsterman are feuding over ‘territory’. This feud impacts all members of the family in individual ways. He goes out everyday, in all weathers, in his boat the “Hope Ann”. When he finds that someone has opened his traps, he in enraged.

Teenaged Jess is fearful that her family is falling apart. She meets a handsome boy and falls in love for the first time. She tries to keep this a secret because her father doesn’t approve of her dating.

Kat misses her little sister AND the loving family she once knew.

The publisher’s blurb said that this was a “gorgeously written debut” and they didn’t exaggerate!  The novel is told via each family member’s perspective so we get an intimate look at what Jack, Hope, Jess and Kat are thinking and feeling. This gives the reader insight into how their grief is manifested and how each feels the loss in very different ways. It also shows how each family member strives to survive without Maddie and be there for each other.

The setting was well described. You can almost smell the salt tang of the air and hear the gulls wheeling above the lobster boat.

The characters were written with empathy and understanding. I liked them all – in particular the teenage Jess and the long-suffering Jack.

The story of the Kelly family was a heart-breaking one, yet quite realistic in many ways.  I would definitely read another book by this debut author and look forward to doing so. Recommended to all readers of well written literary fiction.

I received a complimentary copy of  this novel from Touchstone via NetGalley.

Read an interview with Lisa Duffy here.

Lisa Duffy received her MFA in creative writing from the University of Massachusetts. Her short fiction was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and her writing can be found in numerous publications, including Writer’s Digest. She is the founding editor of ROAR, a literary journal supporting women in the arts. She lives in the Boston area with her husband and three children and currently leads a fiction workshop through 24PearlStreet, the online component of The Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown.

Her second stand-alone novel, This is Home, is forthcoming from Touchstone Books in June 2019.

About Fictionophile

Fiction reviewer ; Goodreads librarian. Retired library cataloger - more time to read! Loves books, gardening, and red wine. I have been a reviewer member of NetGalley since October 2013. I review titles offered by Edelweiss, and participate in blog tours with TLC Book Tours.
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, debut novels, Family sagas, Literary fiction, NetGalley and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to “The Salt House” by Lisa Duffy – Book Review

  1. Pingback: Throwback Thursday – “My Kind of People” by Lisa Duffy #BookReview #ThrowbackThursday @lisaduffywriter | Fictionophile

  2. Pingback: “My Kind of People” by Lisa Duffy – Book Review @lisaduffywriter @AtriaBooks #MyKindOfPeople #BookReview @NetGalley | Fictionophile

  3. Christine Lynn Terrell says:

    What a moving review, Lynne. I might like this.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Lynne. I read thru to the bottom of the article, where the Fine Arts Work Center is mentioned. I’ve been there (as a visitor) a few times for author talks. Anyway, thanks for another real good book review.



  5. You had me at a small town in coastal Maine…now I’ve got to go and find it!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. skyecaitlin says:

    This one sounds lovely! I like the idea of a Maine setting, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. carhicks says:

    Wonderful review Lynne. Your descriptions are always so lyrical and beautiful. I have this one to read as well, it just moved way up my TBR.

    Liked by 1 person

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