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A daughter's fateful choice, a mother motivated by her own past, and a family legacy that begins in Cuba before either of them were born 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 neighbo A daughter's fateful choice, a mother motivated by her own past, and a family legacy that begins in Cuba before either of them were born 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.


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A daughter's fateful choice, a mother motivated by her own past, and a family legacy that begins in Cuba before either of them were born 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 neighbo A daughter's fateful choice, a mother motivated by her own past, and a family legacy that begins in Cuba before either of them were born 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.

30 review for Of Women and Salt

  1. 4 out of 5

    Roxane

    Gabriela is a former student and I was on her thesis committee so I was there when she started this novel in my workshop and to see it now out in the world warms my heart. She is an amazing writer and puts in the work. The language is so lovely in this novel and I love how it is a generational saga. Lots to love about this novel.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Emily May

    And I am sorry I had nothing else to offer, Ana. That there are no real rules to govern why some are born in turmoil and others never know a single day in which the next seems an ill-considered bet. It's all lottery, Ana, all chance. It's the flick of a coin, and we are born. 3 1/2 stars. I feel very conflicted about how to rate this one because I enjoyed parts of it very much ("enjoyed" might be the wrong word, as it takes a number of dark turns) and I thought the writing was gorgeous, but I And I am sorry I had nothing else to offer, Ana. That there are no real rules to govern why some are born in turmoil and others never know a single day in which the next seems an ill-considered bet. It's all lottery, Ana, all chance. It's the flick of a coin, and we are born. 3 1/2 stars. I feel very conflicted about how to rate this one because I enjoyed parts of it very much ("enjoyed" might be the wrong word, as it takes a number of dark turns) and I thought the writing was gorgeous, but I found the nonlinear narrative to be messy and confusing, and perhaps too much for such a short novel. Of Women and Salt tells the tale of the lives of five generations of Cuban women, as well as following the story of Salvadoran immigrants - Gloria and her daughter, Ana - as it intersects with the aforementioned Cuban women. The book jumps from 21st century Miami to 1866 Camagüey to 21st century Mexico, back to Miami and Camagüey, and then to 21st century La Habana. I spent some time going back over what I'd already read in order to make sense of the timeline of what was happening. It tells some of the women's stories in snapshots - like that of Maria Isabel and Dolores - whilst we spent a lot longer with Jeannette and Ana. I was really engrossed in the Cuba chapters, especially learning about the events leading up to the Ten Years' War - Cuba's fight for independence from Spain - and those just before the Cuban Revolution led by Fidel Castro in the 1950s. Garcia weaves stories about women doing what they can to survive into each of her settings. When I say the book goes to some dark places, I should warn that it covers substance abuse and addiction, child sexual abuse, intimate partner violence and suicide. In one deeply sad part of the novel, Garcia pauses to reflect on the complexities of what it is to love someone who has been violent toward you: The body her fingertips memorized, the universe of a relationship. All its language and borders and landscapes. A geography she studied for years and still does not understand: a man who pummels a fist into her side the same day he takes in a kitten found lying in the crook of a stairwell during a rainstorm. The language here, the geographic metaphors, are no accident. There is a running theme throughout this short powerful novel of loving something - be it a person, or a country - that does not love you back in the way you deserve. As Gloria later says: You cried for your old life every day. You begged to go back to Florida and how could I explain it to you, you so small and full of hope still? That the place you called home had never considered you hers, had always held you at arm's length like an ugly reflection? I felt there were a lot of moving moments in this book, as well as a compelling look at some of the last 150 years of Cuban history. I only wish the story's timeline had been easier to follow.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer

    Published in the UK today 15-4-21 She knew and, despite the weight of it, accepted her role as liberator of a frightened man. María Isabel thought it had always been women who wove the future out of the scraps, always the characters, never the authors. She knew a woman could learn to resent this post, but she would instead find a hundred books to read. In 1870 Victor Hugo replied to a letter from the Cuban exile Emilia Casanova de Villaverde (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emilia_...) – wife of Published in the UK today 15-4-21 She knew and, despite the weight of it, accepted her role as liberator of a frightened man. María Isabel thought it had always been women who wove the future out of the scraps, always the characters, never the authors. She knew a woman could learn to resent this post, but she would instead find a hundred books to read. In 1870 Victor Hugo replied to a letter from the Cuban exile Emilia Casanova de Villaverde (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emilia_...) – wife of the novelist Cirilo (author of the novella Cecilia Valdés) with a letter addressed to the women of Cuba – a country then struggling to free itself from Spanish domination – writing of exile and of occupation “Women of Cuba, I hear your cries. Fugitives, martyrs, widows, orphans, you turn to an outlaw; those who have no home to call their own seek the support of one who has lost his country. Certainly we are overwhelmed; you no longer have your voice, and I have more than my own: your voice moaning, mine warning. These two breaths, sobbing for home, calling for home, are all that remain. Who are we, weakness? No, we are force.’” These last words – handwritten in a first edition of “Les Misérables” – form the thread which holds together this novel – which despite its brief length – roams across 6 point of view narrators, 5 generations and 4 countries. The author, who grew up in the Miami Latinx community and is the daughter of Mexican and Cuban immigrants has said “I had the ambitious idea of combining all these different threads I was obsessed with: Cuba, America, detention, deportation, addiction, privilege” using the voices of women – an idea she explored in her MFA Thesis which was the genesis of this book – an exploration of all of those ideas, of the mother daughter relationship, and of divides across colour, social class, country and generations. The book begins briefly in 2018, with a short cry of despair from Carmen (a wealthy, first generation immigrant from Cuba living in Miami) to her estranged, addict daughter Jeanette – pleading with Jeanette to turn from her destructive drug addiction and prove that she wants to live, so that Carmen can begin to bridge the divides between them: a divide which built up due after the death of Jeanette’s father when she shocked Carmen (who had tolerated his alcoholism due to the prosperity she married into) with the truth of his behaviour; and which was exacerbated by Jeanette’s assumptions about the reason why Carmen cut off all links with her mother (Jeannette’s grandmother) Dolores who still lives in Cuba. The first full chapter plunges us back to Cuba in 1866 (a time of increasing guerilla activity) and the family matriarch (Dolores’s grandmother) María Isabel – the only female cigar roller in a factory. María Isabel is inspired and then courted by the factory lector who gifts her first Cecilia Valdés (which “spoke of the Spanish and creole social elite, love between free and enslaved Black Cubans; a mulatto woman, her place in their island’s history. Even so, the author creole, an influential man”) and then Les Misérables – both of which he reads in the factory alongside the daily newspapers (along with Hugo’s letter to de Villaverde) before authoritarian intervention costs him his job and drives him into subversive activities. We then switch to Miami in 2014 – the newly recovering Jeanette (although still drawn to her abusive boyfriend and fellow addict Mario) sees her Central American neighbour taken away by ICE agents and impulsively takes in her abandoned daughter Ana, to the strong disapproval of Carmen who tries to convince her she is imperiling her parole. We then join Ana’s mother Gloria – an illegal immigrant from El Salvador (having fled M13 gang violence – readers of Valeria Luiselli’s brilliant “Tell Me How it Ends” will immediately identify with the brief references to decades of American complicity in creating their own refugee crisis as well as in the strong and deserved critiques of the Obama regime’s warped immigration policies) – in a detention centre without Ana. Later point of view narrators (both first and third party, both past and present tense) are Carmen, Ana and Delores. One of the most impressive aspects of the book is the author’s ability to write in so many different styles and voices – the book effectively has the form of a series of stand-alone and striking short stories coalescing around two related families as well as the themes mentioned earlier in my review . The María Isabel chapter has a portentous and old-fashioned tone; the first Carmen chapter (titled “The Encyclopedia of Birds) features a brilliant set of avian facts and analogies for the character’s situation. Later we have: a young adult tale of lost virginity mixed with the discovery of the body of an illegal immigrant; a two-girl road trip into the Cuban countryside followed by an awkward family reunion that causes them to examine their assumptions and prejudices; a prosperous tale of a thanksgiving dinner gone wrong – and a microcosm of the tensions and preoccupations of the older Cuban Castro-refugee community in Miami, mixed with an animal mystery; an account by the abused wife of a Castro freedom fighter; the observations of a girl working on a beauty counter in a department store and her deductions of a wealthy couple who shop with her; a childhood story of growing up as a Salvadorian house maid with an American ex-pat in Mexico; an American Dirt style border crossing- before the two families are drawn back together. I was drawn to this book due to the number of 2021 preview literary fiction features in which it has appeared – and having read it, suspect it will feature in many best of 2021 lists in a year’s time as well as some prize lists during the year – albeit the publishing date (of mid-April) means it will not be eligible for this year’s Women’s Prize (for which this would seem a certainty to make at least the longlist) In the margin of one page, .. was Jeanette’s handwriting below another note in faded script that seemed to spell out the same thing. We are force, the scribble read. And then Jeanette had added her own words, We are more than we think we are. And though [she] had no idea why Jeanette had written those words, she chose to believe the sentence, the scribble, was a cry across time. Women? Certain women? We are more than we think we are. …. She had no idea what else life would ask of her, force out of her …. She thought that she, too, might give away the book someday, though she had no idea to whom. Someone who reminded her of herself maybe. Someone who liked stories. She said thank you and put the book aside. Ultimately this is a brilliant book for those who like stories. And as I put the book aside I say thank you to the author and thanks to Pan Macmillan for an ARC via NetGalley.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Lupita Reads

    I am not writing this post to signal an alarm that this book is problematic. This review only speaks to my own experiences and gut feelings with how I processed this book. That said I am going to signal boost Lorraine Avila's review for this book in Tastefully Rude called “Of Women and Salt: A Beautiful Novel from Flatiron Books Rubs Salt In The Wounds Of The Black Caribbean” - go read that first. I have linked to in my stories. I am keeping these thoughts vague to reduce the potential of spoile I am not writing this post to signal an alarm that this book is problematic. This review only speaks to my own experiences and gut feelings with how I processed this book. That said I am going to signal boost Lorraine Avila's review for this book in Tastefully Rude called “Of Women and Salt: A Beautiful Novel from Flatiron Books Rubs Salt In The Wounds Of The Black Caribbean” - go read that first. I have linked to in my stories. I am keeping these thoughts vague to reduce the potential of spoilers. I am writing this post because I want to engage critically with literature written about a community I am part of. I want to explore through this critique why it is I personally found myself struggling with reading and now supporting OF SALT & WOMEN by Gabriela Garcia. Sitting with each chapter of this exploration of five generations of mujeres latinas I felt hit in the face with how linear and one-dimensional their stories all felt. How the focus & unraveling of their trauma felt like it served more as a vehicle to move a story further rather than a way to explore the multitudes of resilience that exist within the Latinx/e community, especially women. From the blurbs to the synopsis it appears that the intention of the novel was to showcase “survivorship”. For me, it instead showcased characters as empty vessels to their trauma. Although it feels like the intention to make the secondary characters- Gloria and Ana, Central American, was done thoughtfully to counter the lack of inclusion & centering of the Central American migrant experience in the media, it fails. It reduces Gloria and Ana to simple ploys within the Cuban American character's lives. This struck me and nagged at me the most about the book because there IS a lack of attention to Central American voices writing about and speaking about their migration experiences. Without the characters actively telling you they were from El Salvador within the book, there was little else about their lived experience written that would indicate to a reader that these characters were Central American. It is the lack of building that made this book a massive miss for me.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    "That there are no real rules that govern why some are born in turmoil and others never know a single day in which the next seems an ill-considered bet. It's all lottery, Ana, all chance. It's the flick of a coin, and we are born." I pondered over this title, Of Women and Salt, and came away with something that may never have been the intent of the author. I pictured these five generations of women contained within this novel and then thought of women in general. There are deep wounds that we car "That there are no real rules that govern why some are born in turmoil and others never know a single day in which the next seems an ill-considered bet. It's all lottery, Ana, all chance. It's the flick of a coin, and we are born." I pondered over this title, Of Women and Salt, and came away with something that may never have been the intent of the author. I pictured these five generations of women contained within this novel and then thought of women in general. There are deep wounds that we carry buried beneath the surface. And then there are those readily recognized by others who reflect them in kind. But at times, life has a tendency to trickle salt into their openness.....stinging and oozing from the pains of the past. Gabriela Garcia has created quite the read here that seems to reflect upon those thoughts. Her talent is evident as we come face-to-face with her intricate characters set in Cuba, Mexico, Central America, and the United States. Quite frankly, this was an undertaking stretching in time, in place, and in circumstance. At times, the storyline unravels in a multitude of directions with placement in the 1860's in Cuba to modern times in America. Sometimes "the telling" stayed too long in one location and not long enough in others. Of Women and Salt opens with the character of Maria Isabel who is the sole female worker rolling cigars and bending in that position for hours in an overheated warehouse. The workers are read to every day to keep up productivity. She thrives on the classics even though she, herself, cannot read. Her marriage prospects are limited until the arrival of Antonio, the reader. And the magic and the heartache is to begin. The story continues to unfold through Maria's daughter, Cecilia, and her daughter, Dolores, and her daughter, Carmen, and her daughter, Jeanette. Garcia will take us through the early signs of the Revolution in Cuba as it gains its footing and forces the tremendous hardships and the constant upheaval for power. We are struck by the poverty and the limitations put upon the people when Jeanette visits her grandmother. And at the same time, we experience the resilience of the Cuban people. My wish would have been that Gabriela Garcia would have developed this story into two separate novels. I was more caught up with the early years in Cuba in the 1860's and, in particular, the remarkable story of Dolores in 1959 and her survival skills. There was an abundance of storyline here for even more expansion. History was in the making and it surrounded this family in Camaguey. Then Gabriela Garcia shifts the story to more modern times with intense details of Jeanette's story that parallels her mother, Carmen. Jeanette's character seemed to serve as a reactionary spinning against the swirling social evils and temptations of this world. Garcia's finale closes the door with a hard slam at the end with packages wrapped and left on the doorstep. But hear me out: Of Women and Salt is a worthy read. It has a magic to pull you in. You'll fully notice the shoulda, coulda, woulda gaps here and there. But Gabriela Garcia is a talent on the brink of full bloom. You won't want to miss being within and experiencing the seedling stage of such a writer.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Dorie - Cats&Books :)

    This was a very difficult book to read but it’s an eye opening one. This is a debut author who has a lot to say about immigration, ICE, deportation, illegal aliens, motherhood, mother daughter relationships, rape, etc For me I felt that there was a bit too much information crammed into a rather short novel of 240 pages. I think this would have worked better as short stories about the various women and generational connections. I had problems with the multiple timelines in this book and the myriad This was a very difficult book to read but it’s an eye opening one. This is a debut author who has a lot to say about immigration, ICE, deportation, illegal aliens, motherhood, mother daughter relationships, rape, etc For me I felt that there was a bit too much information crammed into a rather short novel of 240 pages. I think this would have worked better as short stories about the various women and generational connections. I had problems with the multiple timelines in this book and the myriad of characters. It took a lot of time, flipping back and forth through pages, to keep a handle on who was doing what and during what time. I loved the beginning of the novel when we are transported to nineteenth century Cuba and a cigar making factory. I enjoyed Ms. Garcia’s very “sensory” writing of what Cuba was like at that time. We explore the relationships of the cigar workers, mainly men, and how they didn’t really want women joining the group. As this story moves on we see how the revolution upsets the balance of the cigar factory and eventually the factory is seized and the workers are all out of a job. In present day Miami, Carmen and Jeanette are Cuban Americans. Carmen loves her daughter Jeanette but there are communication problems between the two and they often struggle to understand each other. Jeanette is finally overcoming her addiction problems and is now working and living on her own. She sees her neighbor Gloria being taken away by ICE and her young daughter Ana left behind, coming home from school to an empty, locked house. Jeanette takes her in and mother Carmen doesn’t understand why she should take on more problems. Eventually Jeanette travels to Cuba to see her grandmother and try to understand all of the secrets from the past generation. In an interview on NPR on March 28, 2021 the author stated the following: “GARCIA: I wanted to write about what it's like to grow up in a violent, patriarchal society while not censuring those men. And so the book is only in the voices and perspectives of the women, and the men sort of exist at the periphery. And a lot of them are violent in various different ways. So I wanted all of it to sort of just center on the women and how they survive in this society.” The entire interview can be read on the NPR website, it’s an interesting addition to reading the book. While I enjoyed the novel I felt it was a little frustrating to read and keep track of everyone. Perhaps it would be best to read this novel in as few sittings as possible. I received an ARC of this novel from the author through the publisher Flatiron Books. Readers who enjoy multi-generational historical fiction will enjoy this novel.

  7. 4 out of 5

    AnnaLuce

    / / / Read more reviews on my blog / / However distressing, I appreciated the realities, issues, and themes Gabriela Garcia explores throughout her novel. Sadly, the author's execution and writing style lessened my overall reading experience. I know that interconnected narratives can work well, and some of my favourite novels employ this technique (The Travelers and Travellers), but I would have probably preferred for Of Women and Salt to either be a series of short stories or to stick to two or / / / Read more reviews on my blog / / However distressing, I appreciated the realities, issues, and themes Gabriela Garcia explores throughout her novel. Sadly, the author's execution and writing style lessened my overall reading experience. I know that interconnected narratives can work well, and some of my favourite novels employ this technique (The Travelers and Travellers), but I would have probably preferred for Of Women and Salt to either be a series of short stories or to stick to two or three timelines/perspectives—such as Margaret Wilkerson Sexton does in A Kind of Freedom. Take one of the firsts chapters, the one set in Cuba during the 19th-century in a cigar factory. That chapter bears no real weight on the novel, and it would have fitted a lot more in a family saga authored by Isabel Allende. The other chapters are mainly set in the present day and offer readers rushed glimpses into the lives of Latinx women living in America. Some of them are undocumented, and we see how vulnerable a position that leaves them in (there is the risk deportation, being forced to accept jobs that pay badly or are exploitative, no health insurance, racism, prejudice...the list goes on). We read of the horrifying realities and treatments undocumented individuals are exposed to daily. Garcia returns time and again to themes of motherhood and resilience. Garcia also shows us how devastating addiction is, both on the addict and on their loved ones. A lot of the time I was unable to truly familiarise myself with a character or their situation because I found the author's prose almost distracting. There were certain staccato sentences or oddly phrased phrases that brought to mind Joyce Carol Oates' most recent work and I for one am not a fan of this style. I'm sure many other readers will find it a lot more rewarding than I did but I alas found it a bit contrived at times. I wish the story could have exclusively focused on Jeanette and Carmen. Their fraught relationship was compelling. I could sadly relate to some of Jeanette's experiences, and I am grateful to Garcia for the way she discusses sexual assault. We do have a tendency of dismissing groping or other forms of sexual assault as 'minor' as not 'as bad as rape'. And at times it is difficult to articulate why someone's words or behaviour made you feel so violated or uncomfortable. There is a chapter in which Jeanette is fifteen or so and goes for a night out...and there was something about that chapter that I really did not like. Maybe it was the tone or the way the author described fifteen-year-old Jeanette but something just...rubbed me the wrong way. I also did not particularly care for the direction of her storyline (addicts can never recover etc.). The few chapters focusing on Jeanette's neighbour, who is detained by ICE, and her daughter felt a bit harried. I think the author should have expanded their stories more or simply not included them in this novel. While the topics explored in this novel are important I wish that these could have been presented to us differently. The constant shifting of perspectives made it hard for me to truly immerse myself in what I was reading. It was a bit distracting and maybe it could have worked better if the novel and been longer. Then again, given my feelings towards the author's prose maybe I would have still felt underwhelmed by it. I encourage prospective readers to check out some more positive and/or #ownvoices reviews. If you like the work of Patricia Engel, Melissa Rivero's The Affairs of the Falcóns, or Crooked Hallelujah by Kelli Jo Ford you will probably be able to appreciate Of Women and Salt more than I was able to. If you like me did not find Of Women and Salt to be a riveting read I recommend you read The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio which is a work of nonfiction that explores the realities of undocumented individuals.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

    Garcia has woven a multigenerational novel through the points-of-view of 6 narrators and chapters that shift timelines to include 5 generations and 4 countries. It is the author’s beautiful writing that holds this complicated structure together. This is a story about mothers and daughters and how they survive and grow despite having to deal with toxic men and heartless countries. There is María Isabel who is the only female cigar roller in Cuba, just before the Ten Years War that achieved Indepen Garcia has woven a multigenerational novel through the points-of-view of 6 narrators and chapters that shift timelines to include 5 generations and 4 countries. It is the author’s beautiful writing that holds this complicated structure together. This is a story about mothers and daughters and how they survive and grow despite having to deal with toxic men and heartless countries. There is María Isabel who is the only female cigar roller in Cuba, just before the Ten Years War that achieved Independence from Spain. Much later is the story of Delores, whose husband fights for Fidel Castro. Delores’ daughter Carmen immigrates to Florida. She is part of the first-wave of Cuban refugees and are warmly welcomed by the United States. They consider themselves white, not-LatinX, and hold their status as being much higher than dark-skinned Cubans. Carmen’s daughter, Jeanette, is the main protagonist of the novel. She is a woman adrift, alienated from her mother despite the significant financial support she receives from her. She has a substance-abuse problem, and a toxic relationship with her boyfriend. She convinces her mother to pay for a trip to Cuba to see her grandmother, but the visit falls short of her rosy expectations. Jeanette’s neighbor provides a contrasting picture of immigration. ICE picks Gloria up without waiting for her daughter Ana to arrive home. Eventually, the mother and daughter are reunited and subsequently deported to Mexico, despite them being from El Salvador. They were trying to escape the violent, brutal conditions that existed there and crossed into the U.S. illegally. Recommend this story about Cuba, America, detention, deportation, addiction and privilege—but mostly about mothers and daughters.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Jablonsky

    So good. 5 generations of women, in Cuba, Mexico and Miami. A current day ICE deportation in Miami kicks off the story. We learn about immigrants, husbands and wifes, mothers and daughters, sisters, love, lies and betrayals. Very engrossing and important in today's world. So good. 5 generations of women, in Cuba, Mexico and Miami. A current day ICE deportation in Miami kicks off the story. We learn about immigrants, husbands and wifes, mothers and daughters, sisters, love, lies and betrayals. Very engrossing and important in today's world.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader

    Quick thoughts: A beautifully and powerfully-written literary character study of women, especially experiences related to immigration and resilience. This is a strong debut and deserves all the accolades it has received. It exposes all sides to immigration in the United States. I loved it so much I had to order the UK copy, which features a panther on the cover. Thank you to my friends at Goodreads and Flatiron Books for the gifted copy. Many of my reviews can also be found on my blog: www.jennif Quick thoughts: A beautifully and powerfully-written literary character study of women, especially experiences related to immigration and resilience. This is a strong debut and deserves all the accolades it has received. It exposes all sides to immigration in the United States. I loved it so much I had to order the UK copy, which features a panther on the cover. Thank you to my friends at Goodreads and Flatiron Books for the gifted copy. Many of my reviews can also be found on my blog: www.jennifertarheelreader.com and instagram: www.instagram.com/tarheelreader

  11. 4 out of 5

    Stacy40pages

    Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia. Thanks to @livetoread89 for the gifted copy ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ While dealing with addiction, Jeannette tries to help her neighbor child who has been left behind when ICE detains her mother. She also is learning about her Cuban family history, while her mother Carmen is determined not to talk about it. I really liked this story, despite it not being the usual type book that I like. It’s definitely unique. The language is poetic; it flows beautifully. It’s a generational Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia. Thanks to @livetoread89 for the gifted copy ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ While dealing with addiction, Jeannette tries to help her neighbor child who has been left behind when ICE detains her mother. She also is learning about her Cuban family history, while her mother Carmen is determined not to talk about it. I really liked this story, despite it not being the usual type book that I like. It’s definitely unique. The language is poetic; it flows beautifully. It’s a generational story, but I would not call it a saga. We get quips from different generations, but even to make up patterns that pass on. It was really a beautiful story, showing the impact of the decision we make on our lives and others. It shows the tragedy of immigration policy and how it ruins lives. Part of it takes place in a family immigration detention center and was heartbreaking. This was a short read that will bring out some powerful emotions. “You begged to go back to Florida and how could I explain to you, you so small and full of hope still? That the place you called home had never considered you hers, had always held you at arm’s length like an ugly reflection.” Of Women and Salt comes out 3/30.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Christian

    I’m still thinking about this book even after I finished it. Beautiful, tragic, so powerful in such poetic form.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Manon

    Actual rating: 3.5 stars "You cried for your old life every day. You begged to go back to Florida and how could I explain it to you, you so small and full of hope still? That the place you called home had never considered you hers, had always held you at arm's length like an ugly reflection?" Contrary to Of Women and Salt's description as a "kaleidoscopic portrait", Gabriela Garcia's novel rather seems like it wants to be both a short story cycle and a whole fragmented novel. Therefore it should Actual rating: 3.5 stars "You cried for your old life every day. You begged to go back to Florida and how could I explain it to you, you so small and full of hope still? That the place you called home had never considered you hers, had always held you at arm's length like an ugly reflection?" Contrary to Of Women and Salt's description as a "kaleidoscopic portrait", Gabriela Garcia's novel rather seems like it wants to be both a short story cycle and a whole fragmented novel. Therefore it should come as no surprise that its fault lies in not wanting to choose between the two. What results is a collection of storylines all set in different times that at times intertwine to construct an account of immigration, womenhood, deportation, and lost innocence and childhood. All very intriguing to say the least. However, the more the novel progressed, the more unnecessary sidecharacters introduced. Instead of selecting a handful of main characters whose stories would then be fully developed, most were ultimately left to the surface with too much potential left unexplored. I absolutely adored The Bombs Would Rain and Harder Girl so I'm fully aware of Gabriela Garcia's talent. Yet for now, Of Women and Salt's structural issues are what hold the novel back from becoming a truly wonderful sophisticated collection of interwoven stories.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    I'm clearly an outlier with my negative review, so take all of this with a pinch of salt. While I commend what the book sets out to do - tell the story and experiences of generations of different Cuban women (and a woman from El Salvador) who have emigrated to the US - this didn't make for an enjoyable reading experience for a number of reasons. The writing felt clunky, there is WAY too much going on, and the characters fell flat. If these things had been done well I might've been able to put up I'm clearly an outlier with my negative review, so take all of this with a pinch of salt. While I commend what the book sets out to do - tell the story and experiences of generations of different Cuban women (and a woman from El Salvador) who have emigrated to the US - this didn't make for an enjoyable reading experience for a number of reasons. The writing felt clunky, there is WAY too much going on, and the characters fell flat. If these things had been done well I might've been able to put up with the relentless misery that was the plot, but alas. Not for me! Thank you Netgalley and Granta for the advance copy, which was provided in exchange for an honest review.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Vikki Patis

    Where to begin with this book? It absolutely captivated me, drawing me into the lives of several characters, some bound by blood, all bound by their lived experiences as women. The sole female worker in a 19th century Cuban cigar factory, the wife and mother abused by her husband who fights for Fidel Castro, the drug addict, the 'illegal' immigrant and her daughter, the mother trying to protect, failing. A rich, flawed cast of characters set against multiple backdrops and timelines. We are force Where to begin with this book? It absolutely captivated me, drawing me into the lives of several characters, some bound by blood, all bound by their lived experiences as women. The sole female worker in a 19th century Cuban cigar factory, the wife and mother abused by her husband who fights for Fidel Castro, the drug addict, the 'illegal' immigrant and her daughter, the mother trying to protect, failing. A rich, flawed cast of characters set against multiple backdrops and timelines. We are force. The writing at times is smooth and absorbing, like the gentle lapping of the sea upon the shore; other times it is brutal, a tornado smashing into a glass house, shattering prejudices and perceptions and leaving a mess in its wake. My only criticism is that I wanted, needed, more.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sofia

    I am having a hard time formulating my feelings about this book. I wish it were two books - the multigenerational story of Cuban women and then the immigration story of a Salvadoran girl and her mother. Both stories were compelling - I just think the thread between the stories was tenuous at best, especially with the way it ended. 3.5 stars rounded up because of the beautiful writing. But for me, this book didn’t live up to the hype. An imaginary star for all the feels reading about my Cuban peo I am having a hard time formulating my feelings about this book. I wish it were two books - the multigenerational story of Cuban women and then the immigration story of a Salvadoran girl and her mother. Both stories were compelling - I just think the thread between the stories was tenuous at best, especially with the way it ended. 3.5 stars rounded up because of the beautiful writing. But for me, this book didn’t live up to the hype. An imaginary star for all the feels reading about my Cuban people. 🇨🇺

  17. 4 out of 5

    TEELOCK Mithilesh

    Already touted by critics as one of the most anticipated debuts of 2021, Gabriela Garcia’s novel spans five generations and four countries—from 19th-century Cuba to present-day Miami and Mexico. Of Women and Salt primarily follows the daughter of a Cuban immigrant who is determined to learn more about her family history from her reticent mother while making the snap decision to take in the daughter of a neighbor detained by ICE.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Paula W

    I was born, raised, and lived most of my life in a coastal community. When I moved several years ago, I found myself extremely unhappy at first. Something was off, something was wrong. It took me a while to realize that it was the smell of seawater that I was missing. Living there, it wasn’t noticeable; it’s absence was very noticeable. So, I took some time to Google the smell of seawater. It turns out that seawater smells like nothing at all by itself. What we associate with the smell of seawat I was born, raised, and lived most of my life in a coastal community. When I moved several years ago, I found myself extremely unhappy at first. Something was off, something was wrong. It took me a while to realize that it was the smell of seawater that I was missing. Living there, it wasn’t noticeable; it’s absence was very noticeable. So, I took some time to Google the smell of seawater. It turns out that seawater smells like nothing at all by itself. What we associate with the smell of seawater is mainly three things: Dimethyl sulfide that is produced by bacteria consuming phytoplankton, sex pheromones given off by seaweed eggs to attract sperm, and bromophenols produced by marine life to scare away predators. Food, reproduction, and safety — three things necessary for species survival. Three things you will notice if they are absent. I love that this book is named “Of Women and Salt”. It brings to mind survival, but also the rubbing of salt into a wound. There’s a good deal of both in this book. Read the blurb now. I’ll not go back over that. It is important to realize that the “present” setting of this book is prior to 2017, and for good reason. In 2017, President Obama ended the policy of “Wet Feet, Dry Feet”, which gave favored status to illegal immigrants from Cuba. Prior to 2017, if they could just set foot on land, there was no risk of deportation, and they would be allowed to pursue citizenship after one year. Immigrants from Mexico and Central America did not have this privilege. So, there’s a bit of a parallel story going on in the novel: One person who is the child of a Cuban immigrant, privileged, and still failing even though everything needed to succeed is being given to her versus one person from El Salvador who enters the US 3 times before she is out of her teen years and still keeps trying. This isn’t about strength and overcoming hardships because that doesn’t happen to the vast majority of these women. This is about the rawness of life and how everyone deals with it differently. This is about mother/daughter relationships and the legacies of memories, abuse, and secrets. Trigger warnings for rape, domestic abuse, alcoholism, terminal illness, murder, drug addiction, racism, and war scenarios. It’s a little disjointed, and the timeline is all over the place and non-linear, but that wasn’t too hard for me to handle. The author clearly states at the beginning of each chapter who the narrator is and what year it is. The beautiful writing makes up for a lot of minor flaws. As a debut novel, she knocked it out of the park. This author is someone we will hear about a lot in the future.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ellie Kakoulli

    From a nineteenth century Cuban cigar factory, to the present day detention centres of the US. Gabriela Garcia’s “Of Women and Salt” is definitely a debut of epic proportion. Her writing is immersive and sensory, exploring themes of motherhood, heritage, and sense of belonging -whether that’s to a place, person or country. Told in a series of interconnected short stories, we follow five generations of Cuban/Cuban-American women, as they battle the traumas of their past and present. From tumultuou From a nineteenth century Cuban cigar factory, to the present day detention centres of the US. Gabriela Garcia’s “Of Women and Salt” is definitely a debut of epic proportion. Her writing is immersive and sensory, exploring themes of motherhood, heritage, and sense of belonging -whether that’s to a place, person or country. Told in a series of interconnected short stories, we follow five generations of Cuban/Cuban-American women, as they battle the traumas of their past and present. From tumultuous familial and romantic relationship, to the violent reverberations inflicted by Cuba’s political history and the barbaric immigration reform during Obama administration. These are women who’s lives have constantly been dictated and spoken for by men. Yet, despite these external injustices and their own personal battles (as believe you me, these women are no saints), they will tenaciously continue to rise, and fight for their and other women’s truth. “We are force. We are more than we think we are.” Garcia has crafted an extremely moving, insightful and powerful debut, giving voices to women who are far too often absent from literature, and who’s stories must be heard (well, read!) 4 stars Just a heads up, Garcia certainly doesn’t shy away from the nitty-gritty and here are just some of the many TW’s I picked up for you to be aware of: rape, racism, domestic abuse, substance abuse, drug overdose, murder, immigration/separation. For more waffling reviews: https://www.instagram.com/elliekakoulli/

  20. 5 out of 5

    Karen (idleutopia_reads)

    I truly wanted to like this one but it was a disparate patchwork that never came together to form a cohesive story. There were problems with the structure which I should have known since I saw the family tree which was so simple as to be a bit laughable. Still, I gave it a chance because it was own voices story and it is and should have stuck to that. There was potential in this book which I think made it even worse that nothing came to fruition. Anything that could have been thrown into this st I truly wanted to like this one but it was a disparate patchwork that never came together to form a cohesive story. There were problems with the structure which I should have known since I saw the family tree which was so simple as to be a bit laughable. Still, I gave it a chance because it was own voices story and it is and should have stuck to that. There was potential in this book which I think made it even worse that nothing came to fruition. Anything that could have been thrown into this story was added but it was a dressing that never fit the characters. Characters that were never fully fledged and plot that wasn't ever crafted. This could have been a short story collection or it could have been a family saga but it never managed to be either. More cohesive thoughts to come but I would recommend that you get this from your library if you choose to read it.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Tiffany

    I really enjoy eye opening novels that focus on the struggles of people around the world. I think it’s very easy to slip into a bubble and pretend travesties aren’t taking place for millions and millions of people. Novels have the ability to remind us to look outside of ourselves and always search for compassion. Having said that, I wish we would have been able to dig into these characters a little more. I felt like I was just getting to the point of becoming really invested with each character, I really enjoy eye opening novels that focus on the struggles of people around the world. I think it’s very easy to slip into a bubble and pretend travesties aren’t taking place for millions and millions of people. Novels have the ability to remind us to look outside of ourselves and always search for compassion. Having said that, I wish we would have been able to dig into these characters a little more. I felt like I was just getting to the point of becoming really invested with each character, and then I wouldn’t see them again, so that was unfortunate. I thought the focus of the novel was important, and the words were beautiful...I just wanted more in the end.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Marie

    Told in the form of loosely connected chapters that read almost like vignettes, Of Women and Salt is a short novel that touches on Cuban history, immigrants in the US, and matriarchal lineage. It's complicated, and the reality is stark. This is categorically literary fiction, and it challenges the reader with its nontraditional format, as well as an insightful message. I typically enjoy multiple narrators and nonlinear timelines, but in this case the format was a bit staccato, and I found myself Told in the form of loosely connected chapters that read almost like vignettes, Of Women and Salt is a short novel that touches on Cuban history, immigrants in the US, and matriarchal lineage. It's complicated, and the reality is stark. This is categorically literary fiction, and it challenges the reader with its nontraditional format, as well as an insightful message. I typically enjoy multiple narrators and nonlinear timelines, but in this case the format was a bit staccato, and I found myself wishing the story had been a bit more fleshed out. I received this Advance Reading Copy through a publisher giveaway, and any opinions are my own.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Christina

    4.5 Stars This was my first ARC and what a beautiful one it was. It touches on the subjects of addiction, abuse, immigration, and family. Garcia does a marvelous job of weaving timelines and character stories all througout. This book is a delicate spiderweb where you see how one story connects to the previous one and once you read the last story- you are able to take a step back and see this amazing web that was woven right under your nose. I got major "feels" as family stories and secrets unfold 4.5 Stars This was my first ARC and what a beautiful one it was. It touches on the subjects of addiction, abuse, immigration, and family. Garcia does a marvelous job of weaving timelines and character stories all througout. This book is a delicate spiderweb where you see how one story connects to the previous one and once you read the last story- you are able to take a step back and see this amazing web that was woven right under your nose. I got major "feels" as family stories and secrets unfolded and really loved reading the stories told of these strong and resilient women.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Mrs. Murfee

    I love the non-linear storytelling structure - thank GOD there was a family tree included! I'm still making up my mind about this one, and must admit I liked it book much better after a book club discussion. I do think there is literary merit here; however, I also think the author was trying to do too much. Why not make the book a bit longer in order to flesh out some characters and their storylines? I love the non-linear storytelling structure - thank GOD there was a family tree included! I'm still making up my mind about this one, and must admit I liked it book much better after a book club discussion. I do think there is literary merit here; however, I also think the author was trying to do too much. Why not make the book a bit longer in order to flesh out some characters and their storylines?

  25. 5 out of 5

    Krisette Spangler

    I wanted to like this novel, but there were too many things that got in the way. Some of the sections were beautiful and told a moving story of the plight of immigrant women. Other sections were just all over the place and filled to overflowing with as much misery and disfunction as an author could possibly dream up. The language was really bad in some sections as well. I finally quit reading it, when I realized there was absolutely no cohesion and no point to the novel.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Lily Werlinich

    3.5 stars. I wanted to like this book more than I did. Really moving creative concept, but it was over-written so much at times that I would stop and think, “damn where was her editor?” Also, while the nonlinear POV jumps were interesting because they allowed us to hear from more characters, they also let key parts of the story fall through the cracks. I’ll be interested to read what she writes next

  27. 4 out of 5

    Siobhan

    Of Women and Salt is a novel about choices, immigration, and motherhood that moves from 19th century Cuba to 21st century Miami. In 1866 in Cuba, Maria Isabel is the only woman working at the cigar factory, but war is coming. And in Miami in 2016, Carmen, a first generation Cuban immigrant, is trying to get her daughter Jeannette to stay sober, whilst Jeanette wants to go to Cuba to understand the past her mother doesn't talk about. And a few years previous, a chance act by Jeanette affects the Of Women and Salt is a novel about choices, immigration, and motherhood that moves from 19th century Cuba to 21st century Miami. In 1866 in Cuba, Maria Isabel is the only woman working at the cigar factory, but war is coming. And in Miami in 2016, Carmen, a first generation Cuban immigrant, is trying to get her daughter Jeannette to stay sober, whilst Jeanette wants to go to Cuba to understand the past her mother doesn't talk about. And a few years previous, a chance act by Jeanette affects the life of Ana, a young girl who lives across the street with her mother who is about to be deported back to El Salvador. Told in episodes that move between points of view, time, and place, this is a rich novel that looks at different immigrant circumstances (particularly at the experience of Cubans coming to America and then people from Central American countries like Mexico and El Salvador) and how choices impact people's lives. It is woven together well, with Carmen and Jeanette's strained relationship taking an important place in the novel, especially around the reasons behind each of their perspectives and what they've faced and the difficulty they have in telling the truth to each other. Through Jeanette, the novel looks at drug addiction and the opioid crisis in Florida, and also at how she longs for Cuba though she's never been, and doesn't find it quite what she expects. The other narratives in the novel bring in other elements, from a contemporary tale of detention centres and the difficulties of making it to the US and staying there to moments from 1866 and 1959 in Cuba which show political moments through the eyes of individual women who have to fight to survive on a more personal scale. The different stories are brought together cleverly to give an overall picture of women battling for themselves and their families and how their individual struggles reflect wider political and social events. Of Women and Salt is a vivid and powerful novel that grips you as it shows you major moments in its protagonists' lives. The focus on these individuals and their place in the wider world made it easier for me to keep up with than some other multi-generational novels and I found myself reading it more quickly than I expected.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Barb

    I’m struggling with my rating for “Of Women and Salt”. There were parts that were definitely 5 stars but unfortunately 3.5 stars is my overall impression. A short novel about 5 generations of women spanning Cuba in 1866 through present day in Miami. It’s a story of choices made in moments of desperation that impact future generations. In sharp contrast to the present day Cuban/American mother and daughter is the story of an El Salvadorian mother and young daughter that ICE deports from Miami. Ho I’m struggling with my rating for “Of Women and Salt”. There were parts that were definitely 5 stars but unfortunately 3.5 stars is my overall impression. A short novel about 5 generations of women spanning Cuba in 1866 through present day in Miami. It’s a story of choices made in moments of desperation that impact future generations. In sharp contrast to the present day Cuban/American mother and daughter is the story of an El Salvadorian mother and young daughter that ICE deports from Miami. How the two narratives tie together is the backbone of this novel. I particularly loved the first woman, Maria Isabel’s story and also, Ana, the El Salvadorian daughter’s story. This is a novel about mother/daughter relationships and the secrets that haunt them. The writing had moments of remarkable insight and truths but at times is truly tragic in it’s description of the life of poor women and the choices they are forced to make. I want to thank Flatiron Books and BookBrowse for the ARC and the chance to give an honest review.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Gerol

    Five generations of women who survive hardships and betrayal to live their lives and tell their stories. The book begins in Cuba in the 1800’s and travels through time and place to Mexico and Miami to the present day. A haunting novel. Thank you to Flatiron books for the ARC.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Of Women and Salt follows five generations of women all the way from 1866 Cuba to present day Miami, Florida. Along the way, they struggle with inequitable pay, abuse, drug addiction, ICE, death, etc. I can see why some other reviewers thought this story was disjointed, but I thought of it more as a collection of short stories as we learned about each daughter and then her daughter, etc. Even though each section was "simple" in some respects (it is a debut after all), I also found many moments t Of Women and Salt follows five generations of women all the way from 1866 Cuba to present day Miami, Florida. Along the way, they struggle with inequitable pay, abuse, drug addiction, ICE, death, etc. I can see why some other reviewers thought this story was disjointed, but I thought of it more as a collection of short stories as we learned about each daughter and then her daughter, etc. Even though each section was "simple" in some respects (it is a debut after all), I also found many moments to be powerful and emotional as the women in the story found their voices and their power: "We are force. We are more than we think we are." I also thought this was a powerful quote about Ana mourning Florida after she and her mom, Gloria, were taken into custody by ICE: "The place you called home had never considered you hers, had always held you at arm's length like an ugly reflection?" If you'd like to learn more about the culture and resistance in Cuba, I'd highly recommend Next Year in Havana (4 stars) by Chanel Cleeton. For more information about illegal immigrants, I'd recommend Lucky Boy (4 stars) by Shanthi Sekaran, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter (4 stars) by Erika L. Sánchez, The Sun Is Also a Star (4 stars) by Nicola Yoon, and American Dirt (4 stars) by Jeanine Cummins. Location: Miami, Florida and Cuba I received an advance copy of this book. All opinions are my own. (view spoiler)[ Notes taken while reading: Maria Isabel - 1866 Cuba, only female cigar roller, inhales smoke all day long, married Antonio who was killed for rebelling against government, had baby girl, Cecilia. Cecilia - Dolores - 1959 Cuba: Cecilia's daughter and Carmen and Elena’s mom, after being abused for years she kills husband Daniel with a machete and burns his body, Carmen saw her burning the body! Carmen - 2018 Miami: daughter Jeanette is drug addict. 2016 Miami: Jeanette brought Mario to Thanksgiving (both sober after being banned from the house previously), on the day her husband Julio died Jeanette told her he’d molested her, saw young FL panther in neighbor's house. Jeanette - 2014 Miami: missing bf Mario but left him because he abused her and because he encouraged her drug us, currently sober, took in neighbor’s daughter, Ana, after ICE took her mom, Gloria. 2002 Miami: teen just starting to do drugs, thinks she wants to be with a man for the first time but then gets scared, finds dead body in ocean saves her from the situation. 2015 Cuba: meets grandma Dolores for first time, steals an ancient copy of Les Miserables but then returns it after grandma notices it missing. 2006 Miami: 19 yo, dating Mario after mtg him in rehab, sober for awhile but then becomes drug addict again. Maydelis - 2015 Havana: daughter of Carmen’s sister, Elena, Jeanette’s cousin, Jeanette visiting her for first time. Gloria -2014 Texas: detained by ICE, doesn’t know where her 7-8 yo daughter, Ana, is. 2016 Mexico: Ana joined her for a month before they were released in Mexico even though they are from El Salvador, Ana product of rape. Ana - 2018 Mexico: mom died from cancer when she was 12. 2019 Mexico: after her mom died, she arrived in the US again illegally. Try to find Jeanette but her mom was living there instead. Jeanette had died of an overdose so Carmen let her stay in the apartment so she could finish high school. She also got a job to help support herself. Carmen gave her the ancient Les Miserables book. Maydelis sent it to Jeanette after Dolores died. (hide spoiler)]

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