Joanna and Claire Gilly grow up on a salt marsh near Cape Cod. With full knowledge of the drudgery of keeping up with salt production, both girls approach their chores with attitudes befitting their differing personalities. Young sister Claire is completely averse to this, but older sister Jo seems to have come from the sea; besides predicting the optimal weather for growth, she has the right light hand to make sure a harvest is a phenomenal success. And so it becomes apparent that THE GILLY SALT SISTERS is not just an attempt at a magical realism/Alice Hoffman adventure, but a moving tale all Tiffany Baker’s own about two sisters and their fight for the life each one desires and deserves.
"Baker inhabits a world that is at once easy to assimilate into and difficult to get a handle on. But once the supposed storms clear, it becomes evident that Prospect truly has better days on its horizon. THE GILLY SALT SISTERS is an enchanting and engaging story."
The menfolk of this fictional Cape Cod town, called Prospect (yes, like in mining), often live short lives there, dying young or just disappearing after a particularly hard time harvesting salt. The women have been the real ones in charge of the work for eons, and those generations of strong Yankee gals haunt the decisions of the Gilly sisters. Gilly Salt is said to be able to predict the future of the town and its people --- who will have monetary or love success, who will live or die, who will move away or put down stronger roots. This kind of “magic” is suspect outside of Prospect, but, even in its white picket fences, the Gilly sisters are suspect, too. Are they witches or not?
When the richest boy in town, Whit Turner, befriends Jo, trouble comes from his family matriarch, a possessive and jealous mother who wants the Gilly land for her own. Although she owns plenty of Prospect real estate, this is what she wants. But she doesn’t think her son’s love affair is going to be the right connection to earn her that land, especially since she thinks that he and his love are separated sincerely by the class caste in their town.
Tiffany Baker pushes the magical envelope when Mrs. Turner turns on the Gillys. The town resorts to lots of strange new ways to keep her evil tactics at bay. Suddenly, there is also a husband’s pregnant mistress to deal with and everything changes. The strangest bedfellows make good company, and vice versa. As Prospect turns upside down, Baker reveals the underpinnings of a society in flux, concentrating on the two sisters and the ways in which their lives intersect with the rest of the town, changing its “prospects” much in the same way their salt is supposed to have done for generations.
Talk about salt of the earth people! Baker inhabits a world that is at once easy to assimilate into and difficult to get a handle on. But once the supposed storms clear, it becomes evident that Prospect truly has better days on its horizon. THE GILLY SALT SISTERS is an enchanting and engaging story.
Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on March 22, 2012
The Gilly Salt Sisters