Saturday, September 25, 2010

Salt and Sand

The House on Salt Hay Road appealed to me as a family saga, but it turns out it's just as much of a time/place saga. When you read this book, you'll smell sea salt, you'll feel the mosit wind lashing your face, you'll hear the cry of birds and you may just be the tiniest bit irrationally cautious of where you read the book, lest you get sand in your bed or your car.

This is a first novel by Carin Clevidence. It's set in the late 1930s on coastal, rural Long Island. It's a family saga, like I said, about a blended family. Nancy (age 20) and Clayton (age 12ish) are brother and sister. Their parents are both dead, and they've been living for several years with the grandfather, whom everyone calls Scudder, their aunt Mavis who was abandoned by her drunken husband and now works as a domestic at a lodge, and their uncle Roy, whose first girlfriend died when he was about Nancy's age and heralded his permanent retirement from all that, and from many other things.

It's their story over a few years. Nancy feels trapped. Clayton loves it, being a real nature type who loves fishing, crabbing, clamming, drawing dead animals, hunting birds, feeding live birds (Mavis' employer has a ton of them) and all variety of outdoor pursuits. Scudder inevitably ages and declines. Roy gets forced out of his comfort zone for one. Mavis confronts all the unpleasantness in her marriage that she's worked hard to ignore for years.

Nature plays a major role in their story. The book opens with an explosion at a fireworks factory and essentially closes with the biggest hurricane the region had ever seen, although there is denouement. I give this one a strong reccomendation. While it wasn't one of those that impelled me to read late into the night or one that I was thinking about when I wasn't reading it, it was a beautiful, realistic novel that felt like life and has one of the stronger senses of place I've ever seen in a book.

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