Saltwater by Jessica Andrews


In “a stunning new voice in British literary fiction” (The Independent) that lays bare our raw, dark selves, Jessica Andrews’s debut honors the beauty, complexity, and mixed blessings of daughterhood. Intricately woven in lyrical vignettes, Saltwater is a coming-of-age novel about finding a way forward by looking back.

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“This is a book of distance: between body and mind, between mother and daughter, between home and not-home, between having money and not, between oneself and how one presents.

Structured in non-chronological snippets of a life, we follow our narrator as she figures out who she is by examining where she comes from and who, maybe, she wants to be. The distance between what she tells us and what she feels is compounded and winnowed by the voice-driven prose, sections alternating between abstract and often fractured descriptions of body and intimate scenes sculpted from sentences sharp as a scalpel.

In many ways, it is the meeting of a roving mind with the gross reality of what it is to be of a body, of inhabiting it and hurting it, and, maybe, trying fervently to claim it as one’s own.”

<3 Miranda

From that first salty, viscous connection, through the ups and downs of a working-class childhood in northern England, the one constant in Lucy’s life has been her mother: comforting and mysterious, ferociously loving, tirelessly devoted, as much a part of Lucy as her own skin. Her lessons in womanhood shape Lucy’s appreciation for desire, her sense of duty as a caretaker, her hunger for a better, maybe reckless life.

At university, Lucy’s background sets her apart from her classmates and London, even as she struggles with the excruciating, slow separation from her mother. Her father goes missing just after she graduates; her shift into adulthood comes with the burden of choosing how much of her father’s trouble to take on. When her grandfather dies, she escapes to his tiny house in Donegal, a place where her mother once found happiness. There she will take a lover, live inside art and the past, and track back through her memories and her mother’s stories to make sense of her place in the world.

Saltwater by Jessica Andrews