The House on Salt Hay Road by Carin Clevidence
Summer Love and Hurricanes
There are few things that I enjoy as much as the discovery of a great first novel, The House on Salt Hay Road is one. And there are all sorts of reasons that I often wish I could spend more time in New York City – on 1 July I do wish I could have been there to hear a reading by author Carin Clevidence from her novel The House on Salt Hay Road – she was introduced to the audience by another writer whose work I admire, Jhumpa Lahari.
The House on Salt Hay Road begins on a summer day in the years before the beginning of the Second World War. We meet Nancy Poole and her young brother, Clay. We learn about the deaths of each of their parents, and that they have been raised by their grandfather, Scudder, and their maiden aunt, Mavis and their bachelor uncle, Roy. Into this mix comes Robert, a young man studying the birds at a nearby sanctuary.
Nancy and Robert begin a summer romance, city boy and country girl -each exotic to the other. When Robert leaves for Boston in the fall they begin a correspondence and love blossoms.
The life that Nancy and Clay live on Salt Hay Road is idyllic – days structured only by the weather and the household chores, with Clay going off to school each day, and working part time on a crab boat. The Long Island of the 1930’s is long gone but the picture that is painted by Carin Clevidence brings the time and place to life. The reader falls into this household, feeling Nancy’s need to move into the larger world, her desire to follow Robert to Boston. Clay is also looking for freedom, from his sister’s watchful eye – this is his home and he has no desire to go away with Nancy.
Mavis spends her days cooking for the wealthy owner of the bird sanctuary and her nights baking – kept awake by the fear that her husband from an early and disastrous marriage will find her here. Roy was the son who never left home – he stayed and tried his hand at one business scheme after another – all failing, not for lack of good ideas but for lack of being able to keep himself interested once the project began. And Scudder, the father and grandfather of them all – a man loving and conniving all at once. He wants his family around him, those that are left to him.
By the time the Hurricane of 1938 arrives, we know this family well. We have learned their history and their desire for the future – and we know that this devastating hurricane will change their lives forever.
Another first novel, another great read.