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The Salt Roads [Paperback]

Nalo Hopkinson
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Nov. 1 2004
- The Salt Roads was published in Warner hardcover (0-446-53302-5) in 11/03 and received rave reviews.
- Nalo Hopkinson made her debut with Brown Girl in the Ring (1998), winning the Aspect First Novel Contest and the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.
- The author's previous book, Skin Folk (Aspect, 2001), won the World Fantasy Award for Best Collection, was named Recommended Fiction for 2002 by Black Issues Book Review, and was named a New York Times Best book of the Year. Hopkinson's Midnight Robber (Aspect, 2000), a New York Times Recommended Book of Summer 2000, received an Honorable Mention for the Casa de las Americas Prize. It was a finalist for the Nubula Award for Best Novel, the Hugo Award, and the Philip K. Dick Award.

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Product Description

From Amazon

Nalo Hopkinson has been challenging readers and changing the face of science fiction since her critically acclaimed first novel, Brown Girl in the Ring. With her fourth book, The Salt Roads, Hopkinson transcends all categories of genre and establishes herself fully as a literary master. The Salt Roads is an epic tale of hardship and struggle that spans the lives of three black women in radically different historical circumstances: Mer, a slave woman living on a brutal plantation on Haiti; Jeanne Duval, a poor dancer who has a lifelong affair with poet Charles Baudelaire; and Meritet, a Nubian prostitute who becomes St. Mary of Egypt. The individual tales of the women are bound together by Ezili, a goddess who inhabits each of their minds in a quest for self-identity.

The Salt Roads contains strong elements of fantasy--a shapeshifter plays a prominent role in one of the storylines, and there are elements of magic throughout--but this is really a book about history and the inherited narratives of the past. Hopkinson's characters provide new perspectives on a wide range of these narratives, from biblical stories to the mythology surrounding Baudelaire and his poetry. As the three women struggle to escape lives of subjugation and humiliation, The Salt Roads undermines any notion of identity politics, its characters shifting and sliding through the boundaries of race, gender, sex, and social class, and in the process revealing the underlying instability of much of the foundations of Western culture. The Salt Roads is a multi-layered and poignant journey through our past, one that moves through suffering, loss, and longing but never loses hope. Hopkinson may offer a vision of torment and injustice, but she also presents a dream of liberty from the chains of history itself. --Peter Darbyshire --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Whirling with witchcraft and sensuality, this latest novel by Hopkinson (Skin Folk; Midnight Robber) is a globe-spanning, time-traveling spiritual odyssey. When three Caribbean slave women, led by dignified doctress Mer, assemble to bury a stillborn baby on the island of Saint Domingue (just before it is renamed Haiti in 1804), Ezili, the Afro-Caribbean goddess of love and sex, is called up by their prayers and lamentations. Drawing from the deceased infant's "unused vitality," Ezili inhabits the bodies of a number of women who, despite their remoteness from each other in time and space, are bound to each other by salt-be it the salt of tears or the salt that baptized slaves into an alien religion. The goddess's most frequent vehicle is Jeanne Duval, a 19th-century mulatto French entertainer who has a long-running affair with bohemian poet Charles Baudelaire. There is also fourth-century Nubian prostitute Meritet, who leaves a house of ill repute to follow a horde of sailors, but finds religion and a call to sainthood. Meanwhile, the seed of revolution is planted in Saint Domingue as the slaves hatch a plan to bring down their white masters. Ezili yearns to break free from Jeanne's body to act elsewhere, but can do so only when Jeanne, now infected with syphilis, is deep in dreams. Fearing that she will disappear when death finally calls Jeanne, Ezili is drawn into the body of Mer at a cataclysmic moment and is just as quickly tossed back into other narratives. Though occasionally overwrought, the novel has a genuine vitality and generosity. Epic and frenetic, it traces the physical and spiritual ties that bind its characters to each other and to the earth.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Song of Ezili May 23 2004
There are four main characters in THE SALT ROADS, a novel of magic realism. Nalo Hopkinson uses a broken narrative approach to tell their stories, which some readers may find hard to follow.
Mer is a healer woman held in slavery on a plantation in late 18th century Saint Domingue, which will someday become Haiti. Jeanne Duval is a dancer and mistress to the writer/critic Charles Beaudelaire in mid-19th France. Thais is half Nubian/half Greek dancing girl/prostitute in late 4th century Alexandria, Egypt; she gives rise to the legend of Saint Mary of Egypt.
The fourth character connects the other three together. She is Ezili, the Afro-Caribbean lwa/ancestor spirit/goddess. Ezili has many aspects, but is commonly thought of as the mother ocean goddess and the names and nicknames of the characters reflect this: Mer (sea in French), lemer, Meritat (Thais's Egyptian name given to her by her friend Neferkare). Unbeknownst to the three women, Ezili rides them, that is, she possesses them for reasons that even Ezili doesn't understand. At first, the reader, like the characters doesn't know what is going on, but as the book progresses it becomes clearer.
This is a novel of sorrow and celebration, of bondage and liberation, of strength and perseverance. Ezili's siren song sounds both strange and powerful to my ears.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Totally overwrought and over the top Jan. 26 2004
From the initial scenes of lesbian sex, and telling one's fortune by peering into a chamberpot full of urine and a bloody tampon, this book tries to shock rather than say anything truly moving or unique about women. The graphic visual details such as this do nothing to advance either the sory or the characterization, of which there is little. Most of the characters are just moving body parts, usually the amatory ones.
The whore who prostitutes for the great French writer who descends into sado-masochistic sexual highjinks is also not one of the high points of the book either. Everything becomes cliched and stereotypical by the end of the book. How complete crudity like this gets published as 'lyrical' I have no idea. It could have really used a good edit by someone who ccould focus the disjointed narratives into some sort of meaningful whole.
Don't waste your time trying to decipher it. It is like an abstract painting hung sideways up upside down. Most people will not ntoice, let alone care.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The heritage of women Jan. 20 2004
In this mythic fantasy, Nalo Hopkinson braids together the lives of three distinct African women into a potent and sensual feminist vision. Mer is a plantation slave and a healer in what is now modern-day Haiti. She is the lover of Tipingee, but shares this love with Tipingee's husband. Jeanne Duval is a former dancer who is now the lover of struggling Parisian poet Charles Baudelaire. In ancient Alexandria, Thais is a prostitute, and her journey will take her to the outskirts of Jerusalem. Through their lovemaking and daily lives, these women host the spirit sometimes called Ezili, who echoes other names. Ezili can influence their actions, although she often is simply witness through their corporeality, even as she flails against her own bonds. Weaving these seemingly disparate threads together, Hopkinson illumines the lives of women as she explores sexuality, transcendence, spirituality, and personal freedom. Much like "Godmother Night" by Rachel Pollack and "The Female Man" by Joanna Russ, this novel reaches beyond the confines of genre to sing passionately with new rhythms.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The evolution of a goddess Nov. 20 2003
This fabulist tale begins on the island of Saint Domingue, eventually known as Haiti, the scene of slave revolutions and oppressive masters. On one dark night, three slave women bury the tiny body of a stillborn, returning him to the earth. Each of the women experiences an unsettling sensation, in fact, the birth of a goddess, Elizi, brought forth from the depths of their grief. The afro-Caribbean goddess exemplifies the enduring strengths, eternal beauty and fertility of womanhood in all its permutations, evolving over time, as she inhabits the world through three specific women.
The first woman who hosts Ezili is Jeanne Duval, a half-black, half-white dancer, who has captured the heart of poet Charles Baudelaire in 1842 Paris. Baudelaire is Jeanne's only hope for the future, as her present is riddled by poverty and it's inherent pitfalls. The poet comes from a wealthy family, although his mother eventually disowns him after his many years of cohabitation with his sultry and sensual mistress. The reader sees Paris through the eyes of this woman, who pleasures a wealthy man to maintain her place in society.
Changing time and place, in 1792 the island of Saint Dominigue's economy is driven by sugar cane, the slaves endlessly toiling in the fields, harvesting the lucrative cane crop. Most of these slaves have come on slave ships from Africa, their life spans shortened by perpetual hunger and exotic diseases indigenous to the island. The second visitation of the goddess is through Mer, an older slave. Gifted in the healing arts, Mer attends the slaves on the plantation, burdened by her intimate awareness of their shameful existence. Mer communicates directly with the ocean goddess, who speaks to her of salt: the salt of tears, of the ocean and the womanly rites of passage.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars both craft and scope
This "Salt Roads" of this historical/magical realist novel are the trails of sweat, tears, and blood that course through women's lives. Read more
Published on May 3 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars bloody brilliant
Complicated, sexy, rewarding. This is a book that stays with you long after you've finished it. This book is so rich! Read more
Published on May 2 2004
1.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't follow along!
I tried very hard to "get into" this book... but I could no longer force myself after about 150 pages. Read more
Published on March 15 2004 by Inga Magi
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful
I love this author! If you want to read something fresh and new, you must read her. Also, try her first two books: "Brown Girl in the Ring" and "Midnight... Read more
Published on Jan. 16 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Lover, virgin, mother
THE SALT ROADS is an engrossing tale of three women who step off of the pages and sit with you as you revel in their triumphs and tremble at their tribulations. Read more
Published on Dec 4 2003 by The RAWSISTAZ Reviewers
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting....
Nalo Hopkinson's The Salt Roads centers on the spirit, Ezili's (a goddess of love and seduction) emergence in three women throughout time. Read more
Published on Nov. 16 2003 by Pretty Brown Girl
5.0 out of 5 stars THE SALT ROADS by Nalo Hopkinson
This lyrical, yet sexy novel might well be the breakout book for Nalo Hopkinson. Published almost at the same time as the highly anticipated new novel by Toni Morrison, Hopkinson... Read more
Published on Nov. 11 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars fabulous look at Afro-Caribbean mythos
Early in the nineteenth century, on the French colonial Caribbean Island of Saint Domingue, three female slave women, led by Doctress Mer, inter a stillborn baby. Read more
Published on Nov. 10 2003 by Harriet Klausner
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