Book Review: The Salt Roads (Difficult, appropriately)

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The Salt Roads, Nalo Hopkinson

This was a tough book to read for several reasons. Most important being that bearing witness to the atrocities of slavery is painful and it should be. The memories of that abuse survive in the souls of all who experienced it even generations later. Secondly, it’s extremely complex. There are three sets of characters who are treated somewhat unevenly, creating inconsistent pacing. Third, archetypal gods are present, but somehow don’t settle down enough into the writing to feel cohesive. I’ve seen criticisms of the amount of sex and that there is a lot of queer sex, but those are silly—sex is historically accurate, and lesbianism is not new. The sex is there to remind us of the need, the desperate need, to be connected to people particularly when your life is comprised of such astonishing hardship.

That said, the book is important and the fact that it’s hard doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be read. Each character is very well constructed, the writing is descriptive and challenging. I suspect this is deliberate on the author’s part; perhaps hard topics shouldn’t be easy to read about. Like history, it’s not a neat package and as a device I think it’s legitimate. 3.5 Stars

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