The Taste of Salt by Martha Southgate

In her fourth novel, Martha Southgate creates a narrator who is only truly happy underwater and doesn’t realize the depths of her own sadness.
As a senior scientist both black and female, Josie Henderson is an anomaly in the field of marine biology — the only one among the white, male presenters at every conference — but she had always been drawn to salt water, despite growing up in Cleveland, far from either coast.  Her love of the water spurred her on from being a scholarship prep school student to get degrees from Stanford, aquarium jobs, and then research fellowships in her research specialty, the behavior of marine mammals.
Now 36, Josie works with her husband Daniel, a white marine scientist, at the prestigious Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. She dives when she can, reads scientific monographs, talks to her mother long-distance, postpones starting a family with Daniel, and congratulates herself on escaping her estranged father’s legacy of alcoholism that her beloved brother Tick has struggled with since he was a teenager. When she is drawn back into the messy family problems of the world she left behind and finds herself attracted to a new Woods Hole colleague (an anomaly like herself, only male), Josie’s carefully constructed defenses weaken. In her narrative of what has happened, she finally allows herself to question her own dispassionate, self-contained way of dealing with human relationships.
If you liked Michelle Huneven’s Blame for its understanding treatment of a recovering alcoholic or Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout for its portrait of a woman keeping emotion strictly in check, try The Taste of Salt, or one of Martha Southgate’s earlier books, The Fall of Rome.

I received a review copy of The Taste of Salt from an Algonquin Books blog contest. The Taste of Salt will be published September 13, 2011.

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