The Salt Roads Paperback – Nov 1 2004
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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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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.
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.Read more ›
Although these women exist during different time periods, Ezili seems to emerge, exist, and influence each woman simultaneously. With Jeanne, she appears in dreams, and wants to live, act, and breathe through her until Jeanne is physically scarred and disabled from the ravages of a sexually transmitted disease. Mer receives her awakening during a riverside burial ceremony of a stillborn child and Meritet has an instance of self-awareness that allows her to experience the independence of Ezili.
Aside from the Ezili storyline, each main character has her fair share of drama, heartbreak, and intrigue. Each are a victim of circumstance; in worlds that were cruel to the black woman. Mer deals with the harsh reality of plantation life and the impending slave revolt that secured Haiti its freedom from colonial rule. The author expertly embeds regional history and folklore into Mer's story. An aging Jeanne struggles with securing her future as a courtesan in a world in which her skin color places her at a disadvantage and Meritet journeys from whoredom to sainthood.
This book is full of symbolism (the incorporation of the value, taste, and healing power of salt, etc. throughout the novel is superb).Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
This "Salt Roads" of this historical/magical realist novel are the trails of sweat, tears, and blood that course through women's lives. Read morePublished on May 3 2004
Complicated, sexy, rewarding. This is a book that stays with you long after you've finished it. This book is so rich! Read morePublished on May 2 2004
I tried very hard to "get into" this book... but I could no longer force myself after about 150 pages. Read morePublished on March 15 2004 by Inga Magi
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... Read morePublished on Jan. 26 2004 by J. Mullally
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 morePublished on Jan. 16 2004
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 morePublished on Dec 4 2003 by The RAWSISTAZ Reviewers
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 morePublished on Nov. 11 2003
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