My Favorite January Book: The Salt God’s Daughter

The Salt God’s Daughter by Ilie Ruby offers a dream-scape that thrusts us out of logical thinking into emotional thinking. Upon entering the first landscape, we find ourselves at an edge. To walk through the first paragraph the reader must make a choice to step in and have brain waves re-patterned, or kindly leave.

The Salt God's Daughter  The Salt God’s Daughter

The waves here are volatile, dense with invisible traces. Narrative is rent from its usual unity and suspended around us, particlized into fragments of knowledge. Strangely, these impart more information than such unified knowledge as chronology, exposition and sentence structure. Phrases trace and jab and provoke. People are glimpsed. Memories are also the future. The main characters are self-destructive mother Diana, her two little girls Dahlia and Ruth, and Ruth’s beloved daughter Naida. Their stories intertwine half-known, half-formed, laced like a ribbon in the Santa Ana wind.

The moon, the sea, the desert, vines and flowers are all colors that Ruby swirls onto a room of canvases, stacked up to the ceiling, against each other, backwards. The scenes hum with colors that wander in and out, in and out, ululating through the years beginning in the early seventies. The images of little girls imprint in the waves, in the dust, along highways and strawberry fields, lungs filled with California brush fire and skin soaked with flood. Sea animals appear and disappear as omens, as friends, as sisters. The back seats of the station wagon stick to our legs. We taste homelessness and wandering, and we are left alone. We are abandoned and our fear settles in our lap as our mother soaks herself into unknowing… lies… follows the moon. Diana of the Moon.

   Home for the Gold girls

This is a sad tribe of women, women who’ve lost more than was treatable, containable. We might never know why. We only know more than that; we know how these losses score right into the skin, into the soul. Beauty is a buoy, a picnic blanket among wreckage. But beauty can also herald violent betrayal to the unprotected: Ruthie, Naida. No voice, just quiet and the sea to salt the abrasions.

There are safe havens. Dr Dagmar B. is the haven and the keeper of the haven, Twin Palms, then Wild Acres.  The elders keep watch. Ruby offers: those who need saving the most often began as rescuers. Daughter, mother, daughter, sister—what is the texture of these connections? Here, in the Salt God’s Daughter, they are layered dream upon dream upon dream, a stack of pages written with tears, enigmas, thumbprints, and notes in the margin.

  Diana’s Guide to the World

The Wanderer, the Wanderer, written repeatedly. Who is this Wanderer? And who is the Salt God’s Daughter? Clever us, we think we know. Always wanting to make things reasonable, we think we have it mapped out even amidst the floating particles, the waves, and the maze of lacing. What I knew by the end of this book was that I’m still capable of knowing a story without it being told; I’m capable of holding a picture in myself that was created by the traces between words.

Finally, there is solace. Stability can take root and love can flourish amidst abandonment. You, just like Mr. Takahashi, can cut all the blooms away but they will grow again. What do we need to know about a person? For all that we don’t know or can never know, they are a part of us. Our never met fathers. Our secret-holding mothers. Our guarded children. When we can accept their touch on our lives, we can move forward instead of all the other ways sad people move. We can bury their books, we can let them go, we can fulfill the dreams they had for us that we never knew they dreamt.

  The bougainvillea – Naida’s Escape Route

We know we are the most beloved thing in our mother’s life, we are her lodestar. Even as we are lost into the sea she guides us home. We are guided to the wing that covers us after every escape, every flight.

As with all good poetry, the lives shared in these pages gave more than reality, more than what can be predicted or assumed. We drank it and breathed it and were given a lovely dream.


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