Set in Long Beach, California, beginning in the 1970s, The Salt God’s Daughter follows Ruthie and her older sister Dolly as they struggle for survival in a place governed by an enchanted ocean and exotic folklore. Guided by a mother ruled by magical, elaborately-told stories of the full moons, which she draws from The Old Farmer’s Almanac, the two girls are often homeless, often on their own, fiercely protective of each other, and unaware of how far they have drifted from traditional society as they carve a real life from their imagined stories.
Imbued with a traditional Scottish folktale and hints of Jewish mysticism, The Salt God’s Daughter examines the tremulous bonds between sisters and the enduring power of maternal love —a magical tale that presents three generations of extraordinary women who fight to transcend a world that is often hostile to those who are different.
Open The Salt God’s Daughter and it is as if you are walking through a door, where things are at once utterly recognizable and utterly mysterious, like life, and like an ancient fairy tale, or a myth from a lost continent, another time and place. Ilie Ruby offers up a story that is both exquisitely fantastical at the same time that it maintains the feel of unblinking realism. This one’s a story in which to lose one’s self in the best possible way.
Three generations of indelibly original women wrestle with the confines of their lives against a shimmering backdrop of magic, folklore, and deep-buried secrets. About the bonds of sisters, mothers, and daughters, and the refusal to accept limits, this is a story as heartbreaking, gritty, magical, and real as a waking dream, with a sense of place so immediate, you can feel the ocean’s salt spray. To say I loved this book is an understatement.
Magical and gripping, The Salt God’s Daughter captivated me from the very first sentence and has stayed with me long after I finished reading. A lyrical exploration of the timeless search for belonging and the complicated bonds between mothers, daughters and sisters, I devoured the novel in one sitting and then immediately ordered copies for my own mother and sister.
Propulsive, mythic, and rhythmically mastered....a singular, knock-out work of fiction about love and the evolution of identity.
Ruby’s book is an eloquent unfolding of language brilliantly crafted. The Salt God’s Daughter is beautiful writing of life, love, relationships between mother and daughter, families of one’s own making, and the push/pull of the moon on the course of relationships. Lovely!
What a rare pleasure this novel is, a kind of embarrassment of riches, Ilie Ruby has given us a work glowing with the emotive illuminations of two sisters, caught in exile, in homelessness, in a parentless subculture which they both survive by the pure transcendent powers of their personal fantasy-life and myth. The bond of sisterhood prevails. I cannot recommend this passionate look at family and society and outcast-ness enough. To be a part of their journey is to look at our own travels through deprivation, rejection, poverty and find their quiet ultimate triumph, to feel their fulfillment, as if it were our own. I look forward to what this talented writer offers us next!
The characters and the setting hunger for each other . . . the ocean is everywhere, its saltiness fills the pages, lingers on the characters . . . Lovely in its complexity, Ruby has written in many layers. Yes, her book is mystical and fanciful, but at the same time it is intensely raw, and often unsettling.
Lushly woven with elements of folklore, Ruby’s novel is a captivating inquiry into the generational, wayward bonds of mothers and daughters.
Certainly other readers have had this experience: you discover a book that is thrilling in its truth about the world, a book that captures your imagination so completely that you actually feel scared by the thought you might have never held this book in your hands... The Salt God’s Daughter is that kind of book.
When a blue moon rises, mistakes can be undone, lost children can find their homes, and sea lions can shed their skins. The selkie myth lies at the heart of Ruby’s second novel.... This is a bewitching tale of lives entangled in lushly layered fables of the moon and sea.
. . .a lyrical, luxuriantly mystical meditation on being female. The Salt God’s Daughter is astonishing and unusual because selkies — mythical shape-shifting creatures who are human beings on land and seals in the water — are part of the story. In the otherworldly universe Ruby creates, the existence of selkies do not detract from the authenticity of the characters. Quite the opposite: the myth sharpens the characters’ humanity . . . Ruby’s novel comes as close as possible to achieving a deep understanding of the possibilities of being female.
Ruby’s second novel imbues the complex relationships between mothers and daughters with legends and feminist mysticism.... Ruby’s writing is elegant and insightful...
The book beautifully evokes scenes of two girls adrift in the late 70s and early 80s bohemian beach culture... the result is a breathtaking, fiercely feminine take on American magical realism. Ruby spins sweeping mythologies without straying far from the story of a young woman just trying to survive.
It’s luxuriant writing, thoughtful, pleasingly moody, rustled through with wind. Yet, no matter how surreal the story becomes, it offers real places, every day truth.