The Salt Roads, by Nalo Hopkinson
The salt roads are fluid. They flow across continents, ages, and realms, linking African women throughout history with their deities. Full of tears, sweat, oceans, blood, alcohol, piss, and sexual liquids of all kinds.
The salt roads are painful. Sometimes fogged with pain, sometimes raw with it.
The salt roads are paved with powerful desires. The characters hunger for food, luxuries, sex, love, companionship. Respect. Freedom.
There are four main characters: Ezili, an African goddess; Thais, a Greek/Nubian slave and prostitute; Mer, an Afro-Caribbean slave and midwife; and Jeanne, an Afro-French poet’s muse in decadent Paris. Thais and Jeanne are based on real women, St. Mary of Egypt and Jeanne Duval, and the novel is sprinkled with references to other fascinating African historical figures. Rich fodder for those of us who like to look up nuggets.
This book demands an unflinching reader. Hopkinson pulls no punches with the graphic quality of her sex scenes and her torture scenes alike. Whether it’s a woman dying slowly of syphilis and poverty, a slave being mutilated, or Jeanne and her poet delighting in debauchery, the language and imagery are uncompromising even as they are elegantly wrought. There is beauty, too, in passion and sacrifice and the brief moments of joy in these otherwise weighty lives.
The 213 in 2013 series chronicles every book I read in 2013. Each review contains exactly 213 words, because 2013 words is too long and 2013 characters is too dang short.