Review: The Salt House by Lisa Duffy

Title: The Salt House by Lisa Duffy
Publisher: Touchstone
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: 304 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss


In the tradition of Jodi Picoult and Lisa Genova, this gorgeously written, heartbreaking, yet hopeful debut set during a Maine summer traces the lives of a young family in the aftermath of tragedy.

In the coastal town of Alden, Maine, Hope and Jack Kelly have settled down to a life of wedded bliss. They have a beautiful family, a growing lobster business, and the Salt House—the dilapidated oceanfront cottage they’re renovating into their dream home. But tragedy strikes when their young daughter doesn’t wake up from her afternoon nap, taking her last breath without making a sound.

A year later, each member of the Kelly family navigates the world on their own private island of grief. Hope spends hours staring at her daughter’s ashes, unable to let go. Jack works to the point of exhaustion in an attempt to avoid his crumbling marriage. Their daughters, Jess and Kat, struggle to come to terms with the loss of their younger sister while watching their parents fall apart.

When Jack’s old rival, Ryland Finn, threatens his fishing territory, he ignites emotions that propel the Kelly family toward circumstances that will either tear them apart—or be the path to their family’s future.

Told in alternating voices, The Salt House is a layered, emotional portrait of marriage, family, friendship, and the complex intersections of love, grief, and hope.


The Salt House by Lisa Duffy is a poignant portrait of a grief stricken family who are trying to cope with the tragic death of their baby.

Although it has been one year since the heartrending loss of baby Maddie, Hope Kelly is still mourning her daughter’s loss. Unable to move forward, her once happy marriage to Jack is faltering and she is somewhat distant from their two daughters, eight year old Kat and sixteen year old Jess.  Since she has not been able to write her column, the family is also struggling financially since they are juggling two mortgages.  Renovations on Jack’s family’s home, The Salt House, are also at a standstill and he refuses to give in to her pleas to sell the property.  Although Hope is aware she is emotionally disengaged, she cannot seem to be able to remove herself from this destructive pattern.

While Hope gives in to her grief, Jack throws himself into work and spends long hours out on the water hauling in his lobster traps.  He is barely able to pay the bills as their savings dwindle and Hope’s income dries up. In the midst of trying to salvage his marriage, his unresolved past comes back to haunt him when Ryland Finn returns to town and threatens Jack’s livelihood.  Jack is already on edge when his exhaustion and stress lead to out of character behavior that could have devastating consequences.

Unlike their parents, Jess and Kat have worked through their grief over Maddie’s death.  Kat is in tune with the strife between her parents and she is trying to make sense of puzzling bits of their overheard conversations. Jess’s friendship with Alex brings unexpected complications to her life as she tries to keep their relationship under wraps.

The Salt House is a beautifully rendered story of sorrow, healing and love that is quite entrancing. The characters are complex and their struggles to learn how to live without Maddie are deeply affecting and realistically portrayed.  Lisa Duffy strikes a perfect balance between sadness and optimism as the Kelly family finally begins to emerge from their grief.  An absolutely captivating debut that will linger in readers’ hearts and minds long after the last page is turned.

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1 Comment

Filed under Contemporary, Lisa Duffy, Rated B+, Review, The Salt House, Touchstone, Women's Fiction

One Response to Review: The Salt House by Lisa Duffy

  1. Timitra

    Thanks for the review Kathy