The Salt in Our Blood by Ava Morgyn. Albert Whitman, 2021. 9780807572276
Format: ARC (3/21 pub date)
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4
Genre: Magic realism
What did you like about the book? This is an affecting novel that mingles themes of grief, mental illness and mother/daughter relationships. Seventeen year old Cat has lived with Moony, her grandmother, for ten years, ever since Mary, her mother, abandoned her. When Moony dies, Mary takes her to New Orleans to live together in a small apartment in the Quartier. Cat is reeling – so much is unknown about her mother’s past, and what she does know – that her mother is bi-polar, that living with her is a roller coaster – is hard to take. Cat’s dreams, where characters from her tarot deck figure prominently, now seem to be echoed in real life. Are these supernatural events, such as a street magician causing coins to rain down on her from the sky, an effect of New Orleans? Is she becoming mentally ill like her mother? How can she find out the true history of her mother and her grandmother? Talking to her mother is out of the question, so that ups the suspense. A cute boy named Daniel is her only respite from the searching and grief.
Despite the atmospheric setting of New Orleans and the magic realist dreaminess of her experience there, this novel is deeply introspective. Tarot and family history are intertwined beautifully. Coming to terms with her mother’s mental illness is a major theme, and a note at the end about suicide shows that the author takes it seriously.
Anything you didn’t like about it? I like the cover art, a riff on a tarot card, but it makes the book seem appropriate for younger audiences, which it is not.
To whom would you recommend this book? For ages 14 and up. For fans of introspective fiction who are okay with magic realism and supernatural plot embellishments.
Who should buy this book? High school and public libraries
Where would you shelve it ? Teen fiction
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Stephanie Tournas, Robbins Library, Arlington, MA
Date of review: January 27, 2021