Just think, you have your whole life planned out. You have the perfect man, who has proposed to you, and you have the perfect wedding arranged exactly how you want it. Then tragedy strikes, and your beloved fiancé is killed suddenly, leaving you to pick up the pieces of the life you once had.
Frankie Caputo’s world comes to an end when her fiancé Alex is tragically lost in a surfing accident. Now she must figure out how to go on in a world that she hasn’t seen with out him since high school, when they began dating. The grief she feels is subtantial in the novel Season of Salt and Honey by Hannah Tunnicliffe, which I received from netgalley. The agony of Frankie’s loss is abundant in this novel, and you really feel the healing of her grief with her. She begins her mending in a cabin by the ocean where Alex proposed to her, and with all the heartache and loss she has faced, family and friends come to be her saving grace.
Mixed with delicious recipes, Italian family, and good friends, she really takes the summer slow, learning about different people that live near the cabin that she is “renting” from Alex’s family. Frankie learns some very serious, and often heart breaking things about her life with Alex, and she has to decide for herself when it is time to just be okay again. There are many levels to this novel, beginning with the grief that Frankie feels in the wake of her fiancé’s death, but also the grief she has for the missed opportunity of a relationship with her sister, and many more moments in her life she wish she could take back.
I really enjoyed this novel because I felt like it set a good pace on taking back your life after a devastating loss like Frankie endured. At the end of the novel, she’s not “all better”, but she’s getting there. She learns some great things about love, loss, happiness, and life while on her cabin retreat. I think we could all learn from this book about the fact that we don’t necessarily have to grieve and move on, we can take it slow, we can give people the chance to help us feel better, but we also are allowed to never be completely over a loss.
This is a bittersweet novel, that will also make you feel warm and cozy. Frankie’s family is a family that I wished I had, and although the story is tragic, it has a beauty about it that cannot be explained.
I give this novel 5 out of 5 stars, it had me from the first page. Like I said before, I loved the pace of the novel, and that you really got a sense of the ebb and flow of Frankie’s grief. The only probably that I had with this book, and it is so minor that it doesn’t take away any of the content, is the fact that the author is writing about an American girl, but she is using language that you would typically hear from a European person. Such as “torch” for flashlight and “petrol” for gasoline. The author is from New Zealand, which is actually by Australia, so I imagine that’s why she used those words- but it bothered me a little, not enough to not enjoy the novel though!
Thanks to Netgalley, I was able to get in touch with the author Hannah Tunnicliffe! I of course, asked her a bunch of questions- and she answered them:
Kerrie: Season of Salt and Honey is based around such a tragic accident, was there something that happened in your life to inspire this?
Hannah: I’ve been fortunate to avoid tragic accidents in my own life but I have experienced grief and Season of Salt and Honey gave me a wonderful opportunity to explore this process. The disorientation, disbelief, fantasy and frustration are all aspects that felt very familiar to me and it was hugely cathartic to give them a voice through the experiences of the main character, Frankie Caputo, as she comes to terms with her new world, the one without her fiancé, Alex, in it.
K: Also what was your inspiration behind the names of the characters? There were some beautiful ones in there, like Francesca.
H: Naming characters is one of the best parts of writing fiction. The two sisters in Season of Salt and Honey needed traditional Italian names (Francesca and Isabella) but I wanted nicknames for them both so they became Frankie and Bella. The same is true for the Aunties, Connie and Rosa. In a way these four characters are really a set of two pairs. As for the other characters, I tried my best to reflect individual personalities as well as consider their origins and popular names at the time of their births. Research and instinct both play a part. (Word nerd alert: Merriem is named after a dictionary!)
K: I also really enjoyed the recipes that you added between some of the chapters, are any of your favorite foods in these recipes?
H: My favourite food is anything baked, containing butter and sugar! I have a terrible sweet tooth and especially love cookies and cakes. I have a blog – http://www.forkandfiction.com – where I get to chat about my two favourite things in the whole world (outside of my family) – books and food. You will find a lot of sweet recipes there! Of the recipes included within Season of Salt and Honey, my favourites are probably Nzuddi almond biscuits, perfect with a mid-morning coffee, and Spring risotto, which is great for feeding a crowd.
K: Do you have any interesting writing habits?
H: My writing habits are pretty standard and uninteresting, unfortunately. I procrastinate, I stare into space, I go and make a cup of tea instead of getting down to work…! I have two pre-school aged children so my writing practices cannot be too rigid. I have childcare three days a week so I write on those days plus wedge writing into other spaces and times when I get a chance (while ignoring gargantuan piles of laundry!)
K: When did you first feel like you “made” it as a writer?
H: Ooh, great question, Kerrie. I’m not sure I will ever feel as though I have made it as a writer; each new manuscript is begun with trepidation and completed with the unease that I might not be able to write another! I absolutely love my job but it’s not one for giving any sense of steady confidence. In saying that I still remember entering the doors of the Simon and Schuster offices in New York, my heart near exploding with anticipation and happiness, the company name in shiny brass above me, thinking ‘I want to be a writer forever’. Maybe I won’t ever feel like I have “made” it, but I know writing is the vocation for me.
K: Do you have any tips on how to stay positive through negative criticism?
H: Negative criticism always hurts. Perhaps a way to soften the sting is to remember two things – 1) Criticism is evidence that your work is being read (and criticism rarely exists without some praise as counterbalance) and 2) It takes very little courage at all to write criticism but a whole lot of courage to write and put your own work out there. So, when criticism makes you feel powerless remember that you are the one with the tenacity and bravery and not the other way round.
K: I really enjoyed this book, and thought it the ending was fantastic, do you think you will ever explore these characters again?
H: Thank you so much, Kerrie, thrilled you enjoyed it! I love the characters in Season of Salt and Honey like they are family. I would love to return to them and see what they are up to but I also have a few (ahem, too many?) other manuscript ideas leaping around in my head that are begging to be written, so I’ll have to see what transpires and when I get a chance to check back in with Frankie and Jack and Huia and Bella and the rest of the gang.
K: What is one of your favorite books from childhood?
H: How much time do you have? Just one favourite? Okay – Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery. My copy has a green ink stain on one page, a rip in the chapter “Tempest in a Teapot” and is warped from being dropped in the bath too many times. I know all this without having to check the book, that’s how well I know and love my copy!
K: What authors give you life? Which authors gave you motivation to begin writing?
H: So many authors inspire me and, as I mentioned in the question about criticism above, I think all authors are tremendously brave and tenacious, just for dedicating themselves to writing and putting their work out there. I’m especially grateful to the authors of my childhood – LM Montgomery, Roald Dahl, Enid Blyton etc – for giving me a great love of books and demonstration that ‘anything goes’. In adulthood I’ve been hugely inspired by writers like Barbara Kingsolver, Ruth Ozeki, Marcus Zuzak and Rainbow Rowell, just to name a diverse few.
K: What is your life like when you are not writing?
H: Ordinary! Shuttling kids to preschool, fixing meals, reading bedtime stories, folding laundry, feeling guilty about the exercise I’m not doing, getting distracted by my Instagram feed, blogging, eating too much chocolate before bed.
K: Is there a part to the writing process that you dislike?
H: All stages of the process involve some discomfort. Starting is scary and can be slow (Hello, Procrastination), the middle often stalls and drags, editing is extremely detailed and tiresome, completion is filled with more grief than the relief you anticipated; then, having your work published and sharing it others can be very confronting and nerve-wracking too. You wouldn’t believe I adore my job would you? But I really do! I wouldn’t have it any other way.
K: Do you have any advice for someone who wants to become an author?
H: Only the same advice always offered – You cannot edit an empty page i.e. you have to write in order to have anything to work with. If you feel terrified, frustrated and incompetent then you are in very good company – I think most of feel exactly like that almost all of the time! But, if you are a writer you must write and it’s the only thing that makes you feel like yourself, so you simply have to do it. Finally – be kind to yourself, good luck and imagine I am sending you a big hug. Go You!
Thank you so much Hannah!