Review – The Salt Roads

Cover of The Salt Roads by Nalo HopkinsonThe Salt Roads, Nalo Hopkinson
Received to review via Netgalley

Originally received to review, anyway, but I’ve picked it up legitimately since, because wow, it’s been a while. I’ve been meaning to read Nalo Hopkinson’s work for a while — I know I got partway through The Midnight Robber at one point, and I’m not sure why I stopped; it wasn’t lack of interest — and from other reviews, this sounded great. In many ways, I’m not entirely sure how to judge this: it’s about black people, about a mythology that links between time and space, and it’s full of pain and degradation visited on those people by white people. It’s visceral, with sinuous and earthy language; sensual and sexual and rooted in black bodies, black experiences.

It wasn’t quite my taste in fiction, still, and I’m wary of judging it because of that. Because it’s not my usual kind of story. But I think I got at least some of the richness of the novel: the intertwined lives, the physicality of the women. I could connect to the queerness of several of the characters, although the sexuality is not something I can easily connect with. I could connect to the relationships between people — Mer’s concern for Tipingee and Marie-Claire, the awkwardness and respect between her and Patrice. The issues with Mackandal, the fact that Mer opposes him but still wants to keep him safe, as one of her people, doesn’t want him to suffer. For me, she was the most real character; there wasn’t enough of Thais, and Jeanne Duval’s tempestuous relationship with Baudelaire, while vivid, didn’t appeal to me in the same way.

I’m not a huge fan of shifting POVs, and especially when they’re quite disparate; I didn’t find it too bad here, but sometimes it would take me a while to find my footing again when there’s a switch. Sometimes it worked just right, though, for the shifts, the confusion of the spirit riding those women.

Rating: 4/5

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