By: Tiffany Baker
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: March 2013
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: March 20, 2013
Tiffany Baker has delivered the essence of literary eloquence in her latest novel, The Gilly Salt Sisters.
On December’s eve each year, the townspeople gather at Tappert’s Green to watch the bon fire. The draw isn’t so much to watch a pile of timber dwindle to ashes as much as its purpose is to witness the tossing of the salt and rising of the smoke; the salt’s color being a critical and defining moment. If the fire flashes blue, the town will prosper in the coming year. A yellow flare means change is on the horizon. It is understated to say black smoke is more than undesirable. The small Cape Cod community of Prospect’s prophecy for the coming year rests in the color of the smoke. Even though the Gilly’s (Jo, Claire and mama) supply the salt, they aren’t welcome to stay. Rather, their role is to toss the salt into the fire and then it’s time to leave. When she was barely six, Claire Gilly had her debut tossing of the salt. How unfortunate once the crackles and pops subsided, a stream of coal black smoke rose high into the night in its aftermath.
Longer than time itself, the clearest imaginary line had been drawn between the Gilly’s and Ida Turner and her son, Whit—on one side was have and the other, have not. It was no challenge to figure the have part out. It belonged to the Turners. Their strapping estate perched high atop Plover Hill was merely a portion of their holdings once the majority of town ownership was factored in. The have not belonged to the Gilly’s and their series of salt flats that made up Salt Creek Farm. Jo learned to accept her fate early on in life—especially after those very flats took her brother Henry’s life at the tender age of eight. Claire, on the other hand, was on a vengeance to escape once she was old enough. She refused to accept the lousy poker hand she was dealt that doubled as her life. Even after the love of her life left her for his greater calling—a lifetime of worship and devotion to God, she still managed to find a way out.
Tiffany Baker deserves to be proud of the beautiful prose and heart-felt literary fiction she has delivered across the pages of The Gilly Salt Sisters. As a writer, I must confess her ability is enviable. I often found myself reading and re-reading certain passages she had written—not because I couldn’t follow the premise. Rather, I wanted to experience the passage one more time before moving on with the story. Ms. Baker is a true master when it comes to blending situation and feeling together and delivering the two in the form of words; specifically with sentences such as: “…It cheered her to remember that there was something even colder and harder in the world than a Cape sky turning to winter…” Having lived on the Cape for a spell years ago, I had an instant connection to the tone and purpose of the mood she intended to deliver. Winter is stark and bone-chilling on the Cape and Ms. Baker successfully pulled off the mood with her analogy whether (or not) one had ever been to the Cape. Her attention to details with each of her (many) flawed (and extremely likable) characters made this reader want more and then some. It is also enjoyably entertaining to read between the lines of the story and question the possibility of salt having the many magical components she eludes it to have. Regardless, The Gilly Salt Sisters is a wonderful and charming story with terrific literary merit. Well done Ms. Baker! I do look forward to your next novel.
Quill says: The Gilly Salt Sisters is a captivating tale of family with a sprinkle or two of magic and without question, more than a dash to keep the reader hooked—truly a well written and engaging novel.