Book Review – Of Women and Salt

Author: Gabriela Garcia –
Publisher: Flatiron Books

Of Women and Salt is about five generations of women, dating back to 1866 Cuba and ending in present day Florida.

We first meet Carmen in 2018.

She left Cuba as a girl and now lives in Miami.

She has a daughter, Jeanette, who has substance abuse issues and finds sobriety, and life in general, difficult.

Carmen has tried to be strong for Jeanette, but Carmen has secrets.

She hasn’t revealed why she left Cuba and why she no longer speaks to her mother, Jeanette’s grandmother.

To find that out the reader will have to travel back to meet Carmen’s ancestors.

Maria Isabel lives in Camaguey and works as a cigar roller.

It is 1866 and she is the only female worker in the workshop.

In the morning, Antonio, the lector, stands and reads newspapers to the workers.

In the afternoon the novels come out, The Count of Monte Cristo, Les Miserables, King Lear.

Maria Isabel loved listening to Antonio read and Antonio started to show her attention.

He left her little things, gifts, flowers, a mango.

He leaves her a novella but she is unable to read.

There was war going on in Cuba, rebels fighting against the Spanish.

People are going hungry, free men are enslaved, disease is killing families.

And amongst that backdrop Antonia and Isabel Maria meet and Antonio teaches her how to spell.

They eventually marry but the country is in turmoil.

A baby girl is born while her father denounces the crown.

Back to Miami in 2014 when Jeanette’s neighbour gets taken by ICE agents.

The agents didn’t know the woman they took into custody has a daughter, Ana.

Jeanette ends up taking in Ana, what else is she supposed to do?

Carmen can’t believe her daughter has gotten herself in this situation, taking in an illegal immigrant when she is on probation.

So starts a side story about Ana and her mother from El Salvador.

Jeanette wants answers to Carmen’s previous life in Cuba but gets no answers from Carmen, so Jeannette writes to Maydelis, a cousin she has never met who is lives in Cuba.

Maydelis is hoping a connection with Jeanette might mean a sponsorship to the states.

Jeanette is hoping Maydelis can fill in the gaps left after her mother left Cuba.

Jeanette makes a trip to Cuba when she discovers an old copy of Les Miserables sitting on the shelf.

The book started off well and there were some really great parts where I was riveted, but I felt it went off course a bit.

The timeline jumped around a lot – thank goodness there was a family tree to refer to, otherwise I would have been totally lost.

Kim Reardon
The Reluctant Book Critic

It is essentially a story about mother/daughter relationships, how they go through difficult times and how secrets add trouble.

I really liked the story about Gloria and Ana – that could have been a book all by itself and, in the end, the actual book probably tried to cover too many issues in too few pages.