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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. 5 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.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Gumble's Yard

    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 t 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 5 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 5 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.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Christian

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

  8. 5 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.

  9. 5 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.

  10. 4 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. 🇨🇺

  11. 5 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.

  12. 5 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 5 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.

  15. 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

  16. 5 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 4 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)]

  19. 5 out of 5

    Aayushi Jain

    Here's a book that will take you down a memory lane, not of yourself, but of 5 generations of Cuban immigrant women who are struggling till date ever since they were displaced. The story has multiple narrators who are telling their own stories and at the same time commenting on people related to them. Jeanette is the central character who connects the dots between present and past, mothers, grandmothers and great grandmothers, who have fought to provide to their future generation. In Roxane Gay' Here's a book that will take you down a memory lane, not of yourself, but of 5 generations of Cuban immigrant women who are struggling till date ever since they were displaced. The story has multiple narrators who are telling their own stories and at the same time commenting on people related to them. Jeanette is the central character who connects the dots between present and past, mothers, grandmothers and great grandmothers, who have fought to provide to their future generation. In Roxane Gay's words, "Gabriela Garcia captures the lives of Cuban women in a world to which they refuse to surrender". I love family sagas where characters dig out their family history, their origins, their past, which sprouted them to their present. In mere 200 pages, Garcia has been able to voice the silent struggles of Cuban women since 19th century and how their displaced state is treating them. The prime example in the book was of Gloria whose story ran parallel to these 5 generations of women. If there's one character who actually spoke to me, she was Gloria and to some extent Maria Isabel. I'm not a fan of multiple narrators. Though they have their pros which was visible in this book as well, they have cons too. With multiple narrators, I am hardly able to make a connection with either of the character. I was able to make connection with these two particular women because their stories were wrapped in one chapter each. They were complete and I was able to understand their struggles and situations. I'll be honest, I liked this book and it is very important as well. Afterall, it's also @goodreads anticipated book of the year too. Nevertheless, I'll rate it 3.75 stars but will definitely recommend it to people who do enjoy multiple narrators. Thanks to @bookbreakuk and @picadorbooks for the #gifted ARC. The book will release on 15th April. Keep rooting for it!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Brittany

    OF WOMEN AND SALT is a powerful novel that examines the lives of several generations of Latina women throughout Cuba, Mexico, and Miami. It connects the lives of Gloria and her daughter Ana, who are living in Miami when they are suddenly deported, and Jeanette who is currently struggling with drug addiction and working to stay sober. Jeanette's family is originally from Cuba and throughout the novel details emerge over how her mother came to live in Miami and what life had been like in Cuba duri OF WOMEN AND SALT is a powerful novel that examines the lives of several generations of Latina women throughout Cuba, Mexico, and Miami. It connects the lives of Gloria and her daughter Ana, who are living in Miami when they are suddenly deported, and Jeanette who is currently struggling with drug addiction and working to stay sober. Jeanette's family is originally from Cuba and throughout the novel details emerge over how her mother came to live in Miami and what life had been like in Cuba during war time. Written over different time periods and from various perspectives, the reader begins to see the weight placed on the women of these families to hold everything together for their children and how certain choices have a lasting impact. Touching on topics of war, domestic abuse, drug abuse, and the most recent issue of deportation in the U.S., this book really captures the hardships that women must face to not only finding their own sense of self, but also in protecting the ones they love at all costs. This was certainly a difficult read at certain points, but I also think it is an important one to get a small glimpse into the immigrant experience. The only reason I did not rate this a 5-star read was because I wanted a little more backstory from the older generations and also had trouble with the switching between different years at certain points, especially when it was from Jeanette's perspective. The switch between years and perspectives could have been smoother, but overall I still enjoyed the story and empathized with each of the characters. I would highly recommend reading OF WOMEN AND SALT and believe it will be an influential read after recent events here in the U.S.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Miranda R.

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. 4.5 stars rounded up. I received this ARC in a GoodReads giveaway from the publisher. This is a poignant and moving story of multiple generations and multiple families primarily located in Miami, by way of Cuba and El Salvador. Political issues and class divides are the undercurrent of it all, but the driving force is the relationships between mothers and daughters. What did each mother do to protect their daughters? What did they do to show their love? How were these connections different becau 4.5 stars rounded up. I received this ARC in a GoodReads giveaway from the publisher. This is a poignant and moving story of multiple generations and multiple families primarily located in Miami, by way of Cuba and El Salvador. Political issues and class divides are the undercurrent of it all, but the driving force is the relationships between mothers and daughters. What did each mother do to protect their daughters? What did they do to show their love? How were these connections different because of or in spite of their relationships with their own mothers? Something that really stuck out to me was a line from one of Ana’s chapters: “Sometimes she too cried...thinking about all the other possible lives if x or y has happened instead of z” which I feel is the perfect representation of each familial relationship in this book. If María Isabel’s mother had not passed. If Carmen had not awoken during the night. If Jeanette had kept Ana with her. If Gloria hadn’t been deported. I wish we had heard more from Cecilia and Elena. I was just as intrigued by their stories! Overall very thought-provoking and a well-written portrait of the connected lives of these women.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Claire Talbot

    Of Women and Salt tells a tale of generations of women, from Cuba to Miami, and back again. You learn secrets, personal failings, and also learn of a ribbon of abuse that threads it's way among the women. The one thing about the book I did not enjoy was the confusion of going back and forth, between time, between characters, and the gaps in the story. We learn of Maria Isabel - cigar roller in Cuba, struggling to learn to read, marries her love, and experiences great sadness and loss. I kept tur Of Women and Salt tells a tale of generations of women, from Cuba to Miami, and back again. You learn secrets, personal failings, and also learn of a ribbon of abuse that threads it's way among the women. The one thing about the book I did not enjoy was the confusion of going back and forth, between time, between characters, and the gaps in the story. We learn of Maria Isabel - cigar roller in Cuba, struggling to learn to read, marries her love, and experiences great sadness and loss. I kept turning back and forth wondering, did I learn about Cecilia? Much of the novel was focused on Jeanette, and her story was the most painful to read. The drug addiction, the horrible choices (the foam party), and the tough relationship with her mom and dad. Introducing the characters of Gloria and Ana - the illegal immigrants from El Salvador added to the confusion of the story, but yet it made the ending more meaningful. It was a unique was to highlight the perils of immigration, and the heartbreak of those people that are turned away. I hope to read more by Gabriela Garcia - many of her quotes and passages were so poignant, and memorable.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sophia

    Of Women and Salt: A Novel by Gabriela Garcia Published March 30, 2021 Roxane Gay's Audacious Book Club Pick <3 Great Read! I Especially loved the interview with Roxanne Gay and the author at the conclusion. 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 tra Of Women and Salt: A Novel by Gabriela Garcia Published March 30, 2021 Roxane Gay's Audacious Book Club Pick <3 Great Read! I Especially loved the interview with Roxanne Gay and the author at the conclusion. 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.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kathy

    I received a free ARC in exchange for an honest review. Of Women and Salt is a book about unseen forces and how they shape us. For a relatively short book, it covers a lot of ground - two families and a timeline that crosses through many generations. We see the effects of generational trauma on several women, and witness the loss and gain of fortunes. Despite all of this, I never felt there was anything missing or any confusion while reading this lyrical novel. The settings are rich, from Cuba to I received a free ARC in exchange for an honest review. Of Women and Salt is a book about unseen forces and how they shape us. For a relatively short book, it covers a lot of ground - two families and a timeline that crosses through many generations. We see the effects of generational trauma on several women, and witness the loss and gain of fortunes. Despite all of this, I never felt there was anything missing or any confusion while reading this lyrical novel. The settings are rich, from Cuba to the U.S., and the characters are complex and interesting. Readers should be aware that Garcia does tackle some difficult topics that may not be for everyone - addiction, sexual abuse, and death, to name a few. Still, there is hope and beauty in this book, and the beginning and ending of the story have a wonderful (yet realistic) symmetry. I highly recommend this novel and I look forward to reading more from this fabulous debut author.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Anastasia Wiley

    Of Women and Salt is a stunning debut covering multiple generations, cultures, and countries. This novel focuses on the relationships between mothers and daughters, and how these relationships build upon the generation before. Jeannette is still repairing her relationships with her mother, Carmen, when she provides refuge to her neighbor’s daughter after she is detained by ICE. Carmen, trying to understand Jeannette’s behavior, looks back at the relationship with her own mother and the history b Of Women and Salt is a stunning debut covering multiple generations, cultures, and countries. This novel focuses on the relationships between mothers and daughters, and how these relationships build upon the generation before. Jeannette is still repairing her relationships with her mother, Carmen, when she provides refuge to her neighbor’s daughter after she is detained by ICE. Carmen, trying to understand Jeannette’s behavior, looks back at the relationship with her own mother and the history behind her immigration from Cuba. This novel is an homage to the resilience of women and a mother’s love. I absolutely loved Garcia’s style of writing and the distinct voice she gives each of the women. Review based on ARC received from Flatiron Books.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ginni

    I need to clarify something for friends of mine who follow me on here: sometimes I rate a book highly even if I didn't enjoy it very much. My reasoning is something like: if you ask me how some great cook's salmon is, I'm going to tell you honestly that they are very good at preparing salmon, even though I hate the taste of fish. It's the same with books; you can be a five or four star read and not quite be my cup of tea. (And there is plenty of two-star garbage that I secretly relish.) Of Women I need to clarify something for friends of mine who follow me on here: sometimes I rate a book highly even if I didn't enjoy it very much. My reasoning is something like: if you ask me how some great cook's salmon is, I'm going to tell you honestly that they are very good at preparing salmon, even though I hate the taste of fish. It's the same with books; you can be a five or four star read and not quite be my cup of tea. (And there is plenty of two-star garbage that I secretly relish.) Of Women and Salt is a lovely, artistic, character-driven four stars. The women in this book are sketched so realistically that they made me uncomfortable. (It's easier to assure yourself that you have nothing in common with a racist caricature than with a character who tries to identify with suffering that isn't hers, or one who struggles with whether or not to call the police when her neighbor is taken into ICE custody and the neighbor's daughter is left abandoned.) Their time periods and settings, which range from nineteenth-century Cuba to modern-day Miami, are compelling and nuanced. Why is it not for me? I guess I just need more plot in my novels. I wouldn't choose plot at the expense of characterization, but...both is nice. Some things happen, but the connections to the other women seem a bit thin at times and there's no real tension. Gabriela Garcia has cooked up an excellent fish here and it's absolutely not her fault that I'm not a fan. (I received this book for free through a Goodreads giveaway.)

  27. 5 out of 5

    Deborah Dempsey

    Beautifully written, but often disjointed novel about 2 families. The focus is mainly on the women and the traumas throughout each one’s life. Many tough topics: addiction, abuse, immigration, deportation. The women’s stories were compelling, but because it skipped around in time and between points of view, each story felt incomplete. The good part of that though is since it didn’t delve as deeply as I would have liked into each life and their interconnections, the book was short and quick to re Beautifully written, but often disjointed novel about 2 families. The focus is mainly on the women and the traumas throughout each one’s life. Many tough topics: addiction, abuse, immigration, deportation. The women’s stories were compelling, but because it skipped around in time and between points of view, each story felt incomplete. The good part of that though is since it didn’t delve as deeply as I would have liked into each life and their interconnections, the book was short and quick to read. And a short quick read with compelling topics was perfect for our book club!! So overall, a book I’d recommend, but I wouldn’t gush over it. (I was thankful for the family tree at the beginning. Without it, I would never have been able to keep everyone straight!)

  28. 5 out of 5

    Carri

    I was able to read this early as a Goodreads ARC giveaway. A generational saga that follows two families of extraordinary women making heart wrenching choices for their daughters that reverberate through time and generation. It was a slow start for me but really came together in the final chapters. This book comes out in April 2021 and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a major book club pick this up shortly after its publication.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Victoria

    An evocative, multi-generational collection of vignettes depicting the trauma, strength, and resilience of a family of Cuban women. I enjoyed the book, but the last ten pages fell flat for me. The author tried to tie up too many loose threads. For a book of this length, I think a less defined ending would have served it well.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Shannon A

    An unflinching debut of a family, survival, and legacy that starts with a cigar factory in 19th century Cuba and a book. I loved this.

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