The Salt Line


302 pages
ISBN 0-385-15698-7





Reviewed by Joan McGrath

Joan McGrath is a Toronto Board of Education library consultant.


The “salt line” is that invisible demarcation of the farthest reach at which the presence of the open sea can be sensed — a crossing place into country of another kind, not found on any map. Sometimes people make just such unmarked but definitive passages in their lives, after which nothing can ever be the same again.

This sensitive novel is set on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, shortly after the passage of a disastrous hurricane. Survivors are still trying to repair the worst of the damage, to restore something of the gracious way of like so rudely destroyed. At the same time, like scavenger birds, newcomers are thrusting themselves into the shaken community, eyes gleaming at the prospect of perpetrating new wonders in the way of motels, pinball arcades, and dinosaur-motif miniature golf courses where once were only windswept dunes and the cry of gulls.

Amidst the hurlyburly, a reunion takes place — not a happy one. Two men, once colleagues and friends, until adultery shattered trust, who had been content to believe they need never meet again, are brought face to face. One is now a grieving widower, the other burdened with a neurotic wife intent upon resuming the destructive adulterous relationship.

Counterpoint to their gloomy drama is a happier one of hope and new life. Of the two themes, that of light prevails over that of darkness, in a haunting story told by a master of the genre.


Spencer, Elizabeth, “The Salt Line,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 21, 2024,