Thursday, August 17, 2017

Review: The Salt House by Lisa Duffy

Title: The Salt House
Author: Lisa Duffy
Published: June 2017, Touchstone
Format: Paperback, 304 pages
Source: Publisher

In the tradition of Jodi Picoult and Lisa Genova, this gorgeously written, heartbreaking, yet hopeful debut set during a Maine summer traces the lives of a young family in the aftermath of tragedy.

In the coastal town of Alden, Maine, Hope and Jack Kelly have settled down to a life of wedded bliss. They have a beautiful family, a growing lobster business, and the Salt House—the dilapidated oceanfront cottage they’re renovating into their dream home. But tragedy strikes when their young daughter doesn’t wake up from her afternoon nap, taking her last breath without making a sound.

A year later, each member of the Kelly family navigates the world on their own private island of grief. Hope spends hours staring at her daughter’s ashes, unable to let go. Jack works to the point of exhaustion in an attempt to avoid his crumbling marriage. Their daughters, Jess and Kat, struggle to come to terms with the loss of their younger sister while watching their parents fall apart.

When Jack’s old rival, Ryland Finn, threatens his fishing territory, he ignites emotions that propel the Kelly family toward circumstances that will either tear them apart—or be the path to their family’s future.

Told in alternating voices, The Salt House is a layered, emotional portrait of marriage, family, friendship, and the complex intersections of love, grief, and hope.

My thoughts: I love when I come across a debut novel that just moves me...and that is exactly what this one was! Thank goodness for the She Read gals for picking it as a reading club pick - I'm not sure if I would have gotten to it as soon as I did otherwise. And this one deserves all the attention it can get - it's one of those books that while not a joyful read, is one that is filled with hope.

I do have to admit that I did almost stop reading this - it hit a little close to home for me...but I'm so glad I kept going because it's about so much more than just the loss of a child. This was in many ways a cathartic read as much as it was one filled with hope. But make no mistake - it is an emotional read.

I loved how this story was told from everyone in the Kelly family's point of view. This really allows us to get inside each of the 4 characters heads to see how they are dealing with, or not dealing with, their grief a year after the baby's death. I really don't think it would have packed quite the same emotional punch had the story not been told this way. 

The pain and guilt that Hope was carrying over the death of her child was so raw and honest - it was hard to read these sections without having tears streaming down my face. And then seeing how Jack channels his grief - is it any wonder they are at odds with each other? Even the daughters were struggling with the loss of their sister and seeing how they were reacting even a year later, just about broke my heart. These two characters really stole this book - they are what made it stand out as heartwarming, despite the heaviness of story. Jess, on the cusp of adulthood, is thrown into a situation where she knows more than she should, but needs to keep some of that to herself. And Kat just wants to bring everyone some peace and happiness. 

There are many poignant scenes in this book that involve the children - either with one or both of them and this is where there were tears, quite a few. Some were joyful and some were sad, but in the end, they were all good. This is such a beautiful story - that much needs to be said! But again, I don't think these scenes would have been as powerful had they not been exactly as they were created. This book is cleverly crafted - all the pieces come together just so and if just one piece is missing, it would not have the same impact. I know I am being a bit vague here, but I don't want to give anything away - you really just need to read this book - it's that powerful.

Like a house of cards, this family ultimately realizes that they need each other to lean on to move forward - a lesson that in our darkest hours, we often forget. This story is one that, while not always an easy one to read, is certainly one worth reading and one that sends a powerful, yet uplifting message. It is definitely one that will be staying with me for a long time and a book that I will be keeping on my shelf to remind me. Thank you Lisa Duffy for writing such a beautiful story!

The Salt House by Lisa Duffy is the She Reads August reading selection pick.
Head over to the She Reads website to read reviews and related posts of this book, as well as posts related to the other book club selections.



  1. I didn't choose to get this one for She Reads because I didn't think I could finish it in time, but now I'm sorry I passed on it! It sounds like exactly the type of book I love.

  2. This sounds like a gripping, touching, and emotionally-charged story. Great review! I'm glad you stuck with this book.

  3. Hi Kristin, this looks like a goodie. Please bring this over to Books You Loved: August so everyone can see it. Cheers from Carole's Chatter

  4. I didn't choose this one either for She Reads but love your review and can see that it is the kind of book that is emotionally gripping, onto my TBR it goes!

  5. It sounds fab. I'm a little scared by the plot as it also hits a bit too close to home to me. But I love how much you loved it and so I might risk it. I do emotional books, especially when as you said it's also full of hope.


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