Audiobook narrator Angela Brazil was an excellent choice for The Gilly Salt Sisters by Tiffany Baker, a book with a hint of magical realism and a great weight of regret. She differentiates the voices and thoughts of the two Gilly sisters very well – Jo, older, her voice roughened after a difficult life on the family salt farm and Claire, who has escaped the work of the farm but is hardened by her own sorrows. She also manages to sound like a teenager when she does the voice and thoughts of Dee, a motherless young woman who comes to town and becomes curious about the Gilly sisters’ mysterious past and gets involved in their present-day feud.
Set in the fictional, Cape Cod town of Prospect, The Gilly Salt Sisters reminded me at first of Shirley Jackson’s story The Lottery, which has a timeless feel. One of the Gilly sisters (just children at the time) throws a handful onto the annual New Year’s bonfire to determine the town’s prospects for the coming year and then has to leave the festivities; the coarse, gray salt harvested on the family farm is rumored to have magical properties. Townsfolk are wary of getting on the wrong side of the Gilly women and superstitiously keep small stores of Gilly salt on hand. But the story moves in and out of the past and present as it goes on – weaving together local lore, old secrets, lost loves, Catholic-ish traditions, and terrible tragedies in a way that seemed slightly jumbled.
The audiobook narration, again, was excellent, and made what was for me a nice-enough read a lot more enjoyable. The Gilly Salt Sisters would be a great choice for readers who like Sarah Addison Allen (Garden Spells), Brunonia Barry (The Lace Reader) and Kathleen Kent (The Heretic’s Daughter) – all authors who have blurbs on the cover of The Gilly Salt Sisters. It just wasn’t to my taste, although I did like learning how sea salt is farmed.
The Gilly Salt Sisters is the first book by Tiffany Baker that I’ve read, so I can’t compare it to The Little Giant of Aberdeen County, which a good librarian friend recommended to me a long time ago and which I’ve always meant to read. The Little Giant of Aberdeen County received many excellent reviews. I may try it as an audiobook!
The Gilly Salt Sisters has just been released in paperback.
The Gilly Salt Sisters
AudioGO, May 2012
14hrs, 13min; 12 CDs
Disclosure: I received a free review copy of this audiobook from AudioGO.