Thursday, September 13, 2012

"The Salt God’s Daughter"

Ilie Ruby’s second novel, The Salt God’s Daughter has been called by Booklist “lushly woven with elements of folklore.” Her first novel, The Language of Trees debuted in 2010 and was a Target Emerging Author’s Pick.

She applied the Page 69 Test to The Salt God’s Daughter and reported the following:
This is such a cool test. The very idea that a page chosen randomly (or that appears so—perhaps the secrets of quantum physics would reveal a connection we can’t see) would capture a novel is in of itself a leap of faith. But it’s also a true test of what happens when a reader wanders into a bookstore, pulls a book from the shelf, and opens randomly to read a paragraph or two. That often determines a lasting impression of the book. In my debut novel, The Language of Trees, page 69 was very reflective of the story. In my new novel, page 69 is a bit different stylistically than the rest of the book. It’s banked in more history than is found throughout. However, it’s spot on in terms of revealing the inner workings of the book, and the idea that those things we can’t see, including the things that are marginalized or repressed, have a power and an evolution all their own, and are often controlling more of our lives than we know.
The natural world absorbed the artificial in a show of dominance. The islands, along with several free-standing oil rigs, became artificial reefs—home to a plethora of marine mammals and thousands of fish and birds, including herons, falcons, and even parrots.

An illusion, as pleasing to the eye as a carnival, which was the point.

Beneath the surface of these rigs, sea lions could be found diving through the silvery bubbles created by millions of swirling fish, spinning turrets beneath the blue-green water. If you are swimming or kayaking off the coast, chances are, you might run into one of the cows or bulls. Though gentle by nature they are territorial here. The drilling platforms are their home, the reefs their turf.
From this piece, one might get the impression that this book is all about nature and the marine world. Yet it comingles with the human world and the spiritual world—

1. That regardless of the trappings, the make-up, and the décor, true nature shines through.

2. That the natural world will always reign supreme—when it can’t obliterate imposing forms, it will simply incorporate them.

3. That the behavior of animals can show us more about human nature than we know.

4. That our desire to create illusions is timeless and captivating. This area in Long Beach, where I was a teacher, was the perfect environment for this story. Years ago, oil was discovered there, but in order to drill, an agreement was made that called for the preservation of the beautiful Southern California coastline. Great efforts were made to disguise the drilling—artificial reefs housed drilling platforms. Man-made waterfalls disguised the noise. Huge constructions painted to look like skyscrapers contained the rigs, complete with faux teal balconies. And yet the industry became a revitalizing force.

In a way, page 69 drives the rest of the book. The story is mostly character-driven, about two young girls who are forced to survive, largely on their own in an enchanted landscape where nothing is as it seems—not love, not childhood, not even their own identity. Here, the spirits of sea lions take the form of men who walk right out of the waves, promising love and the restoration of stolen virginity. In a larger sense, the story is about human nature, animal nature, and the ways in which our instincts will always lead us to that which feels most like home.

Amazing, isn’t it? This test seems to carry a little magic in of itself.
Learn more about the book and author at Ilie Ruby's website, blog, and Facebook page.

The Page 69 Test: The Language of Trees.

My Book, The Movie: The Language of Trees.

--Marshal Zeringue