The Salt House: A Novel by Lisa Duffy

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“Am I one of your favorites, Hope?” Dad sometimes asked, his dark eyes drilling a hole into the back of Mom’s head. You got the sense he was holding his breath when he asked the question. It would get him a laugh and a hug, but over her shoulder, Dad wasn’t laughing. In those moments, if need had a face, it would’ve looked like Dad.

This is a heartbreaking story, about a terrible tragedy that rips every thread that keeps this family together. Everything was glorious between Hope, Jack Kelly and their three daughters. They were renovating The Salt House to create the perfect family home, their lobster business was finally thriving through their hard work and then their youngest child silently passes away through an accident that her mother Hope feels she could have, should have, prevented. The guilt is paralyzing, a monster that is devouring Hope and the rest of the family. Though time has passed, she can’t focus enough nor write a word, though her career was helping them financially. But how does a mother move on when she feels she too died in that horrific moment? How can she enjoy her beloved husband’s touch, allow herself a drop of joy, open herself to nurturing the children that remain when she can’t move past the loss?

And what of the husband and children? The husband now awash in his own silent grief, becoming angry with his helplessness, drowning himself in his job- desperate to keep his family from sinking? Someone has to earn the money, and he will do it, even if he dies in the process. It’s summer in Maine, but there isn’t much sunshine for Jess and Kat. Jess sees too much, not far from adulthood herself, and is angry at her mother’s emotional absence, determined to see her dad stop making excuses and blaming himself for her mother’s cold detachment. Kat doesn’t know the full story of what happened to her baby sister, nor her role in the tragedy, and Hope wants it to remain so. Jess wants to punish her mother, she wants to prod her to feel, because she isn’t the only one suffering. Young Kat can’t understand where exactly Maddie has gone, why there hasn’t been any sort of closure nor ceremony. Worse, she is being picked on by a boy and Jess wants to solve at least that problem for her kid sister, not realizing how her family is tied to his, nor that she is about to fall in love.

It is a summer of love and a little bit of madness. Who is Ryland Finn and why are there secrets between him and Jack? He is fast becoming a threat to the family’s business, and in a short time what was once a promising future has become a bleak horror show. Why can’t Hope bear to step foot into The Salt House, the dream home that once was the seed to their happy future? Why is it a year later the pain is still fresh, and no one is moving on? Secrets will out, and sometimes it takes nearly going over the edge before a family can find the pieces to put themselves back together.

Will they be able to find a new way to live after so much grief, tragedy? Or is this the end of the Kelly Family?

The girls will have your heart, the shifting perspectives is vital to the telling because any parent can relate to the horror of losing your child, the shame and guilt that while you were oblivious, wrapped in your work, your child suffered her last breath. To put yourself in the children’s shoes is different, because they seemed to lose their sweet sister and need to make sense of their grief but their parents are anchored to their pain and can’t see past their own loss. Everyone is aching but full of buckets of resentment. This story hurts, it’s too realistic, and that’s exactly why it’s beautiful. Some are too young to understand what’s happening around them and yet my well be the wisest ones to remember just what their little sister Maddie would have wanted. Don’t be fooled by the pretty summer cover, it’s not a light breezy read. It’s weighted with pain. Hold tight to those you love, because everything can change in a moment, and you can’t always see what’s dangerous until it’s too late. Wonderful.

Publication Date: June 13, 2017



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