The Gilly women work in salt. Owners of Salt Creek Farm, the women undertake backbreaking labor to harvest salt from their marsh. And every December Eve, it is their duty to throw a small packet of salt into the celebratory bonfire to predict the future of their tiny Cape Code community of Prospect. Because of this long tradition and because the salt is believed to have mysterious qualities, the Gilly women are feared rather than loved—necessary for the town’s well-being, but outside its community all the same. Claire Gilly has always longed for more, ever since childhood. She rejected the salt and rejected her family and, after a disastrous accident that left her sister Jo scarred by fire, Claire married Whit Turner, a scion of the wealthiest family in town, leaving the salt marsh for good. But the salt wasn’t done with her, it seems. Long-buried family secrets come to the fore when teenaged Dee ends up pregnant by Claire’s husband and Claire’s first true love, now a priest, returns to town.
Whimsical and dark by turns, The Gilly Salt Sisters is not quite as strong as Baker’s debut, The Little Giant of Aberdeen County. However, the characters are nuanced and the atmosphere and setting are evocative and sharply drawn. There is much to enjoy here.