Sometimes I think agree with the idea that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. I know a little about the craft of writing. I tend to analyze books with what little I know about writing fiction in the foreground and it makes me a little hypercritical about things like character's following through on their motivations, and when I can actually see the editing process in the finished product ("You should add more about how she loved to bake as a teen right here," the editor says pointing to a innocuous chapter that previously had nothing to do with baking.) So I was probably a little harsher on this book than needed.
The Sweetness of Salt by Cecilia Galante
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Julia has never really understood her moody (and much older) sister Sophie. She dreads Sophie's return for her high school graduation, and the experience lives up to her fears. Julia is underachiever Sophie's opposite in every way and has her whole life mapped out in front of her. Before Sophie leaves in as much of a whirlwind as she came in she gives Julia two gifts: a car and a place to drive the car. Sophie wants Julia to come up to visit her in the house she's renovating in Vermont (which will also be a bakery.) Julia refuses, of course, until she finds out her parents and sister had been keeping a secret from her for her entire life.
The rest of the story is about Julia's time in Vermont with Sophie helping her fix up the old house/bakery and her burgeoning but different relationships with two guys. Revelations and drastic personality/life shifts become almost common place in the last 1/4th of the book.
The writing is heavy handed. (Way way way too many metaphors serving as plot points and pretending to be character development. Please, you don't need to hit me over the head with your literary devices.) To be fair, the author knew what she wanted to do with the metaphors she chooses. The main problem is that very early on, I did too.
At the same time, it was an engrossing read. I wanted to know more about this family secret and more about the thinly developed romance between Julia and the boy across the street. Many times I found Julia to be an obnoxious and bratty narrator, but the methodically paced out revelations saved her from being unbearable. Julia is not the only one with character development problems. The parents in this book do some really loathsome and detrimental things to both daughters, especially Sophie. All of which is glossed over and given a shine during the unnecessary epilogue.
Who should read this book?
Realistic fiction readers who like some drama and a hint of romance will enjoy this book. Despite my criticisms this book would be popular with anyone who has a difficult sibling relationship to work through. What sibling relationship isn’t at least a little difficult at times? It also really was a very well paced and plotted novel with some lovely descriptions.
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Metaphors are kind of awesome, right? They are a way for us relate anything back our own experiences or at least experiences we can image having. Unfortunately Galante just got a little heavy handed with her metaphor shaker, and much like salt, too much metaphor is bad for your heart.