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A Novel

Jessica Andrews


Saltwater Download image

ISBN10: 1250785642
ISBN13: 9781250785640

Trade Paperback

304 Pages



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Winner of the Portico Prize

It begins with our bodies . . . Safe together in the violet dark and yet already there are spaces beginning to open between us.

From that first salty, viscous connection, through the ups and downs of a working-class childhood in northern England, the one constant in Lucy’s life has been her mother: comforting and mysterious, ferociously loving, tirelessly devoted, as much a part of Lucy as her own skin. Her lessons in womanhood shape Lucy’s appreciation for desire, her sense of duty as a caretaker, her hunger for a better, maybe reckless life.

At university, Lucy’s background sets her apart from her classmates and London, even as she struggles with the excruciating, slow separation from her mother. Her father goes missing just after she graduates; her shift into adulthood comes with the burden of choosing how much of her father’s trouble to take on. When her grandfather dies, she escapes to his tiny house in Donegal, a place where her mother once found happiness. There she will take a lover, live inside art and the past, and track back through her memories and her mother’s stories to make sense of her place in the world.

In “a stunning new voice in British literary fiction” (The Independent) that lays bare our raw, dark selves, Jessica Andrews’s debut honors the beauty, complexity, and mixed blessings of daughterhood. Intricately woven in lyrical vignettes, Saltwater is a coming-of-age novel about finding a way forward by looking back.


Praise for Saltwater

"Gorgeous . . . Andrews unspools Lucy’s coming-of-age story in short numbered fragments, prose poems that at first seem random and out of order, but build in a logical sequence all their own . . . Andrews’s writing is transportingly voluptuous, conjuring tastes and smells and sounds like her literary godmother, Edna O’Brien . . . It’s her mission, she has said, to tell the stories of working-class women."Penelope Green, The New York Times Book Review

“Impressionistic recollections . . . coalesce into a characterization of a young woman taught by her mother’s example how to navigate a society ruled by men . . . [Lucy will] experience her life fully, and . . . to be present in the world she must allow its weight to dissipate.”The New Yorker

"Raw, intimate and authentic."Johanna Thomas-Corr, The Financial Times

"[Saltwater] features something very rare in literary fiction: a working-class heroine, written by a young working-class author . . . The writing is disarmingly honest . . . This is a courageous book dealing frankly with youth, puberty, mother-daughter relationships, class, disability and alcoholism . . . I found parts of this novel intensely moving—I wish I had read it when I was 19."—Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett, The Guardian

"Written with delicate, soul-bearing temperament, followers of Zinzi Clemmons' What We Lose will fawn over Andrews’ warm-blooded coming-of-age debut concerning a young woman coming to grasp with the annals of her estranged upbringing."Paris Close, Paperback Paris

"This book is sublime. It dares to be different, to look in a different way. Andrews is not filling anyone’s shoes, she is destroying the shoes and building them from scratch."—Daisy Johnson, author of Everything Under

"Saltwater moved me to tears on several occasions; here is proof of the poetic idiosyncrasies of every family, of every person’s narrative being worthy of literature, of the fact that a good novel shouldn’t bring voices in from the margins, but travel outwards towards them, and let them tell their own story, in their own voice, in their own, unique way."—Andrew McMillan, winner of The Guardian First Novel Prize for Physical

"Saltwater revels in the possibilities of its form, using fragments to shift tone and texture, reminding us of those pivotal moments that can upend a life. There is a growing corpus of excellent cross-genre experiments in prose fiction to which Salwater is a happy addition. This book holds disparate elements in a finely wrought balance that is difficult to achieve at any stage of a writing life let alone in a debut."—Kayo Chingonyi, winner of the Dylan Thomas Prize

"A book of breathtaking beauty. Saltwater is a visionary novel with prose that gets deep under your skin. The short, sharp chapters thrum with life. Lucy is a memorable character, her journey one that is moving and totally compelling, telling a series of deep truths about the state of our divided nation. Andrews is a major new voice in contemporary British fiction."—Alex Preston, author of In Love and War

"Reading Saltwater is an in-body experience. I felt like I had danced all night—awake, alive, good-sore-tired and something else—angry, really angry. Yes, this book showed me the parts of my past to keep but better than that it showed me the parts I must burn to be free."—Carmen Marcus, author of When Saints Die

"A meditation on mother-daughter relationships and finding a place to call home . . . The natural untethering that happens between mothers and daughters is remarkably rendered—the heartsickness given gravitas equal to romantic relationships . . . [Jessica Andrews] explores themes like memory, home, womanhood, and mother-daughter relationships with shattering clarity . . . A beautifully written experimental novel."—Kirkus Reviews


Read an Excerpt


My first dead body was my grandfather’s. My mother and I sat in the funeral home at his wake in Ireland for two days while people I had never met came to pay their respects. I moved to the back of the room because I thought the blue...

About the author

Jessica Andrews

Jessica Andrews writes fiction and poetry. Her work has been published in The Guardian, The Independent, Elle, AnOther, Somesuch Stories, Shabby Doll House, and Papaya Press, among others. She teaches literature and creative writing, and is coeditor of The Grapevine, an online arts and literary magazine that aims to give a platform to underrepresented writers. Saltwater is her first novel.

Seth Hamilton

Jessica Andrews

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