Book: “Of Women and Salt” by Gabriela Garcia
Genre: Historical Fiction/Fiction
Rating: 5/5 Stars
Blogger’s Note: Thank you to Flatiron Books for the gifted copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Author Gabriela Garcia has brought the Cuban legacy in Miami to readers in the form of her debut novel, “Of Women and Salt.” Please see the synopsis from Amazon below.
“In present-day Miami, Jeanette is battling addiction. Daughter of Carmen, a Cuban immigrant, she is determined to learn more about her family history from her reticent mother and makes the snap decision to take in the daughter of a neighbor detained by ICE. Carmen, still wrestling with the trauma of displacement, must process her difficult relationship with her own mother while trying to raise a wayward Jeanette. Steadfast in her quest for understanding, Jeanette travels to Cuba to see her grandmother and reckon with secrets from the past destined to erupt. From 19th-century cigar factories to present-day detention centers, from Cuba to Mexico, Gabriela Garcia’s Of Women and Salt is a kaleidoscopic portrait of betrayals―personal and political, self-inflicted and those done by others―that have shaped the lives of these extraordinary women. A haunting meditation on the choices of mothers, the legacy of the memories they carry, and the tenacity of women who choose to tell their stories despite those who wish to silence them, this is more than a diaspora story; it is a story of America’s most tangled, honest, human roots.”
The beginning of this book felt like a strong work of historical fiction. After a short passage from 2018, the non-linear time line takes the reader back to 1866 and follows the story of Maria Isabel who is the original matriarch from Cuba. The author weaves a tale rich with history that originates on the factory floor where workers are rolling the famed Cuban cigars. Bibliophiles will love the nod to literature that author Garcia has expertly entwined into Maria Isabel’s love story. However, as the character falls in love and moves forward, so does the political unrest in Cuba. If the reader has an understanding of Cuban history, turning pages will become a stressful endeavor. I felt uneasy as if there was a predator in the shadows, just waiting to steal the happiness that I had found for Maria Isabel.
The timeline then flashes between women who are decedents of Maria Isabel and Gloria and Ana who are a mother and daughter that have escaped from El Salvador and are living in Miami. I found myself naturally drawn to Gloria and Ana’s story. As a mother myself, Gloria’s story was heartbreaking. The book is a work of fiction, but it screams so loudly with truths that it reverberates in my ears even now as I type.
One of the standout sections of this book is the passage focused on Gloria when she is in the ICE detention center. Her observations, her attitude, her feelings and inner thoughts… all of these components were masterfully done and I felt fortunate to be able to read them.
It is important to note: this book weighed heavy on my heart. Clocking in around 200 pages, this book is not considered to be a lengthy novel. However, it took me a while to read it for several reasons. I deliberately took my time reading this novel. I wanted to absorb every word, every emotion and critically reflect on the important issues that the work highlights. At times it was hard to read, but likewise the weight of the world is often difficult to face. As I finished the book and momentarily closed my eyes, I realized that I exhaled a breath I didn’t even know I had been holding. This book left me with a heartache but also allowed for the reaffirmation of my belief that women are strong, capable and can move mountains.
“We are a force.”“Of Women and Salt” by Gabriela Garcia
Recommendations: Authentic, poignant and raw with emotion, this novel is going to be one of the best of 2021 and is not to be missed!