|The Salt Roads|
Mer has the most time on stage in The Salt Roads. Mer is Ginen, but now works in the cane fields and provides medical care for the other enslaved Africans on the plantation. She is bitter and angry, yet she provides tender care for her fellow captives. There is an especially moving and heartbreaking scene midway through The Salt Roads when Mer talks a new captive out of suicide by starvation by explaining the "facts of life" to him. But in spite of her exhaustion and frustration, Mer still listens to the quiet voices of her goddess: Lasirèn, one of the facets of Ezili. Lasirén asks her to re-open the salt roads, the paths that the goddess uses to communicate with her people. As if this wasn't enough of a task for Mer, the woman also has to contend with the growing revolutionary violence all around her.
|"Baudelaire's Mistress, Reclining," by Édouard Manet|
The last woman to feel Ezili's touch is Meritet. We don't learn as much about her as we do about Mer or Jeanne. Of the three, however, she is the one filled with the most vitality. You could even say she's happy most of the time. Ezili's touch leads her to leave her position in Alexandria to travel to Aelia Capitolina (the Roman name for Jerusalem) to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Her pilgrimage leads to a mystical experience in the Judean desert.
In between the chapters about the three woman, Ezili finds herself alternately trapped between the three and in an unknown space where she sees other facets of herself: Hathor, Erzulie, the Virgin Mary, Lasirèn. All are motherly goddesses of love. It was fascinating to learn more about the names scattered through the text and see the historical and theological connections Hopkinson drew. Ezili's passages are also the most poetic. Some pages are just single words. Others are hypnotic passages about the in-between space Ezili inhabits.
You cannot read The Salt Roads quickly. Ezili's sections require you to slow down to fully absorb the meaning. The three women seem different from each other, but the connections and similarities become apparent as the book goes on. The Salt Roads is a startling read (and not just because of the scenes of lesbian love). It's nominally a work of fantasy and historical fiction, but the language is leagues beyond the simple prose of most of the genres.
I received a free copy of this ebook from NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. This edition will be released 27 January 2015.