In her second novel, Baker (The Little Giant of Aberdeen County, 2009) follows the lives of two sisters whose family has always harvested salt that may or may not have magical powers over their Cape Cod community.
The town of Prospect (a town unbelievably untouched by modern life or tourists) depends on salt from the Gilly Salt Creek Farm for luck; the residents read their futures in the colors rising from Gilly salt thrown on the annual bonfire. Although the Gillys attend the same Catholic Church as everyone else in town, the feared power of their salt makes them permanent outsiders. As the book opens, the Gilly sisters have grown estranged. Younger, pretty Claire has married local rich boy (and her sister Jo's former boyfriend) Whit Turner, and joined local society, while Jo remains on the struggling farm. Why is Whit so anxious to buy Jo out and Claire so anxious to turn people against Jo's salt? Flashbacks show Jo has always been committed to harvesting the salt since her childhood in the 1950s, while book-smart Claire always wanted desperately to get away. Jo’s one childhood playmate was Whit, son of the wealthiest family in town. Whit’s mother wanted the children to have nothing to do with each other, and Jo’s mother was equally unenthusiastic. Shortly before charming but headstrong Whit left town for boarding school, he tried to proclaim his love to Jo. But having learned a family secret—one that most readers will guess way too soon—Jo broke off their budding romance. Years later, after Claire's boyfriend broke her heart by becoming a priest, a newly returned Whit wooed her. Twelve years later their marriage has soured. Then Whit begins an affair with a lonely young girl who has recently arrived in Prospect. When she becomes pregnant, Whit shows his darker side and all hell breaks loose. There are two fires, one accidental and one perhaps unintentionally lethal, before a discomfortingly amoral happy ending.
Baker’s gift for richly embroidered fantasy only partially compensates for the novel’s inconsistency. Alice Hoffman–lite.