Julia has just graduated from high school. She was valediction. She's getting a free ride to college where she will be pre-law. She will be spending her summer at a law related internship. Everything is perfect, just as Julia's life has always been. Then Julia's sister, Sophie, comes home. Sophie never got along with their parents. She's still angry about the time they spent in Milford, before Julia was born. Julia thinks she knows everything that happens, but Sophie says there's something that their parents haven’t told her. Julia ends up spending the summer with Sophie, helping Sophie getting ready to open her own bakery. Julia wants to learn the whole truth, but even Sophie has a hard time explaining.
This book and I got in a fight on page 105. This is Sophie talking to Julia about her bakery: "Plus, I want to have a wall for all different kinds of specials. Maybe a certain bread - like Irish soda bread for St. Patrick's Day, fruitcake for Christmas, or challah bread for Passover - whatever." Challah is eaten on Shabbat. Shabbat starts every Friday night and ends Saturday night. Every single week. On Passover, Jews don't eat any food that has leaven, so Passover is actually one of the few times when challah would NOT be eaten. Why, when writers are writing about a culture that is not their own, don't they double check things? Why don't the editors? I'm sure this happens all the time and I don't pick up on it because I don't know. But when I can pick up on it, it annoys me to no end. So of course, I immediately went to my computer to send an email to Bloomsbury. There's usually a "please e-mail your comments" address on the back of ARCs. Which there was. And the contact person was Deb Shapiro. You know how cranky it made me that I had to email someone name Deb Shapiro and tell her that Jews don't eat challah on Passover? I know, I know, I'm sure Deb didn't have anything to do with the editing of the book. They have not emailed me back, by the way.
Aside from the fight, I thought it was a pretty good book. I could have done without the thrown in romance, however. At the beginning, there's this guy Julia's in love with who she's sure doesn't love her back but it turns out he loved her all along and they get together at the end. It felt unnecessary. Julia was working through a lot of stuff and becoming her own person for the first time. She didn't even have a whole lot of contact with Milo throughout the book. Why bother with it at all?
I did like the relationship she had with Aiden. In Vermont, where Sophie is opening her bakery, Julia meets Aiden, a potter. They talk and hang out. When he was first introduced, I was sure she was going to fall in love with him and then she was going to have to choose between him and Milo and that seemed dumb because much more important things were going on and it would just get in the way. But she didn't. They were just friends, and their interactions were very simple and nice. They were able to help each other push through some hard stuff in their lives, and they felt close but it was never romantic. So nice job with being able to show different kinds of relationships. Always good to see.
The Sweetness of Salt was working on similar theme as Please Ignore Vera Dietz. Julia's family has all been pushing away painful things for years and years. Sophie is an emotional mess because of the secrets and the guilt she's been feeling since she was seven. Julia has always felt the need to say that everything was fine, even when things weren't. Everyone is realizing that not saying when things are wrong doesn't actually make the painful things go away.
Sophie finally is able to tell Julia what really happened in Milford, and only then can the family start to heal. Julia also finally feels free to make her own way in the world. It ended a little unrealistically I thought, with her somehow being able to switch the college she was going to go to for the school she really wanted, even though she didn't get a free ride, but it's nice to see her feeling comfortable enough to follow her passion, which was art, not law.
All in all a nice book, even though the book and I are totally still in a fight. Challah on Passover. Really.
The Sweetness of Salt came out on November 9th.