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The Salt Roads Paperback – 26 Nov 2004

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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Warner US; New edition edition (26 Nov. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446677132
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446677134
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 2.4 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,200,255 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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THE SALT ROADS should be required reading for the next century. An electrifying bravura performance by one of our most important writers.'- Junot Díaz, author of DROWN ('Sexy, disturbing, touching, wildly comic. A tour de force from one of our most striking new voices in fiction.'- Kirkus Reviews)

Book Description

In the bestselling tradition of Toni Morrison, Edwidge Danticat, and Alice Walker comes the breakthrough new work by Nalo Hopkinson, a homegrown award-winning Warner author who has consistently garnered tremendous and widespread acclaim.

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By AMAL EL-MOHTAR on 23 May 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
An incredible book. The language, the hyper-reality of bodies and embodied experience, the foregrounding of queer relationships -- just amazing and wonderful and harrowing and brilliant.

The one knock against it was that I felt Meritet's narrative diffused the effect of the other two -- that it started too late in the book and unbalanced things. I can think of any number of reasons to justify its inclusion, but I felt the execution -- especially when compared to the immense success of Mer and Jeanne's respective threads -- was lacking, and I think it would've been a stronger book without it, possibly, for all that I loved Meritet herself.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Not as great as her other works ' brown girl in the ring' is a masterpiece. Whilst not trying to give the plot away, would have loved to read more of the character Mer.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 20 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Interesting.... 16 Nov. 2003
By Pretty Brown Girl - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Nalo Hopkinson's The Salt Roads centers on the spirit, Ezili's (a goddess of love and seduction) emergence in three women throughout time. The reader gets a glimpse of her in Mer, a lesbian slave woman healer, in the early 1800's on the Caribbean island of St. Domingue (Haiti) during a burial of a stillborn child. The second appearance is in the 1880's within Jeanne, a mulatto Parisian dancer and mistress to a white poet whose purse strings are controlled by his domineering mother. The third woman, Meritet, is a prostitute in an ancient (340's A.D.) Egyptian brothel.
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). It also has a mystical and esoteric feel to it; the stories are heart wrenching and the characters are memorable. The author embellished a bit at times with the transcendental themes causing lapses that were very vague and abstract; however for those who enjoy heavy, lyrical prose and surreal themes, it is worth picking up. Overall, it is a wonderfully imagined story that dabbles with the supernatural and issues of self-worth, survival, and redemption.
Reviewed by Phyllis
APOOO BookClub, The Nubian Circle Book Club
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
both craft and scope 3 May 2004
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This "Salt Roads" of this historical/magical realist novel are the trails of sweat, tears, and blood that course through women's lives. Separate narratives intertwine here, each wrought with the precision and lyricism of a short story, but together they produce a true novel of compelling scope. The settings range from Baudelaire's Paris to the cane fields of French-ruled Haiti, from early Christian Alexandria to the present day. The threads of slavery, childbirth, love affairs, and accidental sainthood are by turns comic, angry, and earthily sensual.
Rich with historical detail and human intimacies, the book sometimes pulls back to a goddess-like view, contemplating the slow changes that have transformed women's lives over the centuries--but never losing its light, witty touch. In short, a very big novel with many finely crafted and exquisite parts.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
fabulous look at Afro-Caribbean mythos 11 Nov. 2003
By Harriet Klausner - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Early in the nineteenth century, on the French colonial Caribbean Island of Saint Domingue, three female slave women, led by Doctress Mer, inter a stillborn baby. During the burial ceremony, they pray to Ezili, the Afro-Caribbean Goddess of love and sex, to "use" the infant's "unused vitality". Mer knows first hand how Ezili resides inside them as the goddess lives within her to use her when needed for that is how she has the healing hands.
Ezili employs other female African or Afro descendents as her channel. In the nineteenth century in Paris, Ezili lives inside mixed blooded Jeanne Duval, lover of poet Charles Baudelaire. In the fourth-century Nubian Meritet, changes from a prostitute to the founder of a religion when Ezili enters her. However, even Goddess' have fears that they will expire as Ezili worries will happen to her now that Jeanne' is dying from syphilis. Escape may be through Mer's prays, but at a moment when the Saint Domingue slaves seek freedom at any cost could still endanger the Goddess.
Extremely complex in terms of the time paradox, Nalo Hopkinson shows why she is the leading fabulist of Afro-Caribbean mythology, religion, and folk tales filled with Mojo today. The plot spans time and place yet seems so right though readers will struggle with non-linear events (string theory anyone) connected via salt and the Goddess. The three women are fully developed, but surprisingly in a mystical sense so is Ezili. Nalo Hopkinson provides another winner with her insightful look at Afro-Caribbean mythos.
Harriet Klausner
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
The evolution of a goddess 20 Nov. 2003
By Luan Gaines - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This fabulist tale begins on the island of Saint Domingue, eventually known as Haiti, the scene of slave revolutions and oppressive masters. On one dark night, three slave women bury the tiny body of a stillborn, returning him to the earth. Each of the women experiences an unsettling sensation, in fact, the birth of a goddess, Elizi, brought forth from the depths of their grief. The afro-Caribbean goddess exemplifies the enduring strengths, eternal beauty and fertility of womanhood in all its permutations, evolving over time, as she inhabits the world through three specific women.
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.
Finally, Meritet, a young Alexandrian woman of pleasure, is the third vessel of the emerging Elizi. Traveling with a young male prostitute to the former Jerusalem, Meritet is beset with an unexpected loss, followed by a spiritual transformation, one that changes her from prostitute to legend.
Moving gracefully through time, each woman acts as a vehicle in the evolution of Hopkinson's goddess. Rich, earthy and sensual, the powerful prose describes a passionate people. Striding through history, ribald and uninhibited, the author speaks for those without voices, enchanting, seducing and raging at the weight of injustice.
Hopkinson has penned a fantastical tale of empowerment and joyful sexuality, but accomplishes much more: the intoxicating prose entertains and informs, indicting the brutal institution of slavery. Guided by the author's powerful intuition, take this exceptional journey, as mysterious as the world of the spirit and as real as the steel chains that bind the limbs of those bought and sold. Luan Gaines/2003.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A Time-traveling poltergist! 3 Nov. 2004
By Loose Leaves Book Review - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The Salt Roads is the third novel by science fiction writer, Nalo Hopkinson; however, this novel is really more of a historical fantasy. Hopkinson combines elements of voodoo, mythology and Christianity to weave a very interesting story that shares a common symbolic thread -- salt -- the salt in tears, in sweat, in blood and even in the sea.

With the unfortunate burial of a stillborn infant, the goddess Ezili is evoked from the prayers of three Caribbean slave women to their individual gods. Ezili is the goddess of sex and love. She possesses the ability to occupy the minds and bodies of three different women during various periods of time. With her birth and inhabitation of these women, Ezili offers the strength to love and hope for a better life.

In eighteenth century Saint Dominique, Mer, a Caribbean slave women, has the gift of healing. She is content with her life as a slave and spending time with her female lover until she receives a visit from the spirit Lasiren, who gives her a message to save the slaves on the plantation. Ezili gives her the strength she needs to take on the responsibility. She faces several challenges with a sorceror named Makandal who is starting a slave revolt on the plantation. Her relationship with her lover is threatened when her lover's husband returns to the plantation with an invitation for Tipingee to leave with him.

In nineteenth century Paris, Jeanne Duval, a dancer and the lover of poet Charles Baudelaire, is seeking true love and security. Because she is of African descent, she can never be more than Charles' mistress because he is too cowardly to stand up to his overbearing mother who controls all of his money. Theirs is a twisted love affair that leaves Jeanne unsatisfied. Jeanne is the first body that the spirit Ezili possesses. In Jeanne, Ezili learns and grows. When Jeanne is inattentive or asleep that Ezili is free to travel through space and time. The spirit of Ezili gives Jeanne the strength to find true love even after falling victim to a devastating illness.

In fourth century Alexandria, Meritet is a nubian prostitute. Meritet is inspired by the tales of Jerusalem and decides to travel there. She takes along her friend Judah, a male prostitute, and they use their bodies as payment for their fare to Jerusalem. Once they arrive in Jerusalem, Judah seems to prosper while Meritet is faced with misfortune. After the spirit of Ezili possess her, Meritet is changed from a prostitute to a saint, a founder of a religion.

The Salt Roads is a very good book. It is not a quick read and does not follow a logical storyline; it's fantasy, so the elements would not make sense to a logical thinker. The book can also be pretty graphic and extremely gross at some points. Overall, it was an excellent read. I applaud Nalo Hopkinson on this effort.

Reviewed by Paula Henderson of Loose Leaves Book Review
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