The Salt God’s Daughter was inspired by the confluence of real life and a Celtic myth about the selkies. I first heard the myth in a folksong my mother used to play on the guitar, “The Great Silkie of Sule Skerry.” According to Scottish lore, selkies are human on land and seals in the water. They are known for their ability to romance the lonely and love-starved. In the original folksong, a male selkie impregnates a women, and then takes the child back to his home in the sea. By modernizing the myth and setting it in a contemporary landscape, I decided to evolve the dynamic between the genders, play with the notion of fixed and fluid identities and trace the way cultural expectations for women have changed over the last few decades. There are two selkies in the novel, and though the myth of elusive shapeshifters is mostly atmospheric, the core story follows the evolution of three generations of women. There is indeed a romantic love story woven throughout the book, but this novel belongs to the ever-changing love story between mothers and daughters and sisters.
Set in Long Beach, California, beginning in the 1970s, The Salt God’s Daughter follows three generations of women who are linked by a rare, elusive quality that makes them unmistakably different from others. Theirs is a world teeming with ancestral stories, inherited memory, and meteoric myths about the moon, the stars and the creatures of the sea.
Diana Gold raises her two daughters on the road, charting their course according to an imagined map drawn from the Old Farmer’s Almanac. Ruthie and Dolly grow up in the back of her stationwagon, and later, in an old motel turned retirement home near the beach, a place where residents run with half-packed suitcases into the ocean at night, where lipstick kisses are left on handkerchiefs buried in empty bottles, and where love comes in the most unlikely and mysterious of places—perhaps it even comes from the ocean.
Fiercely protective of each other the sisters are unaware of how far they have drifted from traditional society. Their lives are intertwined until Ruthie meets Graham, a mysterious sailor. When Ruthie’s daughter is born with syndactyly, a condition which causes webbing between the digits of her toes, the truth about the women in her family and their ties to the sea begins to come to light.
In an oceanic wilderness where identity is as fluid as the ocean, Ruthie must accept the truth about herself, but first she confront all that was taken from her. Only then will she find out who she really is.
Impeccably narrated in two powerful and distinctive voices, The Salt God’s Daughter is a story of reclamation: of the body, mind and the spirit. It is testament to the fact that identity reveals itself over a lifetime, and true beauty, in all its forms, belongs not just to the lucky, but also to those who’ve found a way to live fully and well without any luck at all.