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Above the Salt by Katherine Vaz

Above the Salt

A Novel

by Katherine Vaz

  • Critics' Consensus:
  • Published:
  • Nov 2023
    432 pages
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There are currently 28 member reviews
for Above the Salt
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  • Jill G. (Rochester Hills, MI)
    Poetic Love Story
    This 19th century read follows soulmates John Alves and Mary Freitas, over eight decades across Portugal and the United States. Meeting at a young age and becoming friends during the blood tide of warfare between Catholics and Protestants in Portugal, their families must flee and go to the United States, where they are separated till meeting again a few years later.

    Katherine Vaz's exquisitely written love story will pull you in from beginning to end. Because it is written in the the language of its time, it isn't a quick read. I found I had to slow down to savor the lyrical writing style of this beautifully told love story. An author I did not know of and look forward to reading more from her

    Thank you to BookBrowse for the ARC of this delightful poetic language read.
  • Laurie S., Minneapolis, MN
    Above the Salt: Historical Fiction at its Finest
    Based on a true story, Above The Salt by Katherine Vaz spans continents and centuries to tell a sweeping saga of the human heart. So beautifully rendered in its wisdom and details, I can't tell you many times I had to set the book down just to ponder its powerful conflicts of the heart. Ms. Vaz did meticulous research on all of topics covered in this lifelong love story of John Alves and Mary Freitas. Starting with the conflict of Protestants and Catholics on the Portuguese island of Madeira to the Presbyterian sponsored immigration of persecuted Protestants to south central Illinois, the reader follows John and Mary through the Civil War with many betrayals, missed connections, and miscommunications ending in the early twenties of the San Francisco earthquake and the early film industry. This is a must read for lovers of historical fiction. One of my top books for the year.
  • Julia A. (New York, NY)
    A sweeping lyrical novel
    I am amazed by how Katherine Vaz was able to take a small fragment of information about the real John Alves and weave it into a sweeping novel that held my attention from the very first page. I learned some things I didn't know before, such as the Catholic-Protestant strife on the Island of Madeira in the 19th Century, and that magic berries are real (I googled it; I invite you to do so too). She created characters I cared about, some of whom I liked and admired, others of whom I would have liked to strangle. Vaz shows us the awful power of jealousy, teachery, deception, and greed, but also the healing power of friendship and love. This is a sweeping novel that stretches from 1843-1919, and shows us both the American Civil War and World War II's effects on those who lived through one or both. Through it all, we have John and Mary and the people in their separate and intersecting orbits to keep us reading and reacting. All in all, a wonderful read.
  • John A. (Ashland, OR)
    Excellent Historical Fiction
    Above the Salt by Katherine Vaz is a very well researched and fascinating historical fiction novel. The characters are well developed and interesting. The plot is excellently laid out, and the historical material is very illuminating. All in all, this is a top notch read and is highly recommended.
  • MGB (Little Compton, RI)
    A Long-Awaited Voice
    Katherine Vaz has written an epical love story spanning an ocean, continents and nearly eight decades that is intertwined within an historical fiction account of two refugee children who in the 1840s are forced to flee their Portuguese island of Madeira because of religious intolerances. Reunited many years later in Springfield, Illinois, their love is ignited only to be thwarted by countless religious and familial obstacles, racial stereotypes, societal betrayals, and even complications of military duties during the Civil War. Yet the author drives the reader forward with vivid historical references and a sustained hope for their love story.

    With prose that is both stunning and lyrical, the author totally captivates the reader as she weaves the various subplots and supporting characters into her storyline to produce this fabulous page-turner. The only shortcoming is that too many of these characters lived well into their 80s and 90s, which was quite unusual and not supported by actuarial data for this time period. Nevertheless, this novel is not to be missed, as Vaz is a new and exciting, long-awaited voice of Portuguese-Americans. I look forward to reading more from her.
  • Laura D. (Newmarket, NH)
    Above the Salt
    What I will remember most about this novel is the stunningly beautiful use of words to convey feelings and images! The author possesses an amazing gift in her ability to put into words things that I did not imagine could be described. This is an immigration story, a war story, a historical drama, a family saga, but, mostly a love story. I felt the longing and sorrow emanate from the pages. The resiliency of the human spirit is exhibited many times over. I also gained a deeper appreciation for the amount of uncertainty that was present in people's lives prior to modern methods of communication. I look forward to reading more by this author.
  • Barbara B. (Evansville, IN)
    One of a Kind Historical Fiction
    Above the Salt is a descriptive, lyrical story of two lovers, John Alves and Mary Freitas. Their lives begin in Madeira, a Portuguese island, where the religious uprisings between Catholics and Protestants are at a fever pitch in the mid 1800's. Both become religious exiles to the United States, specifically Springfield, Illinois. They are separated and reacquainted throughout several years, with another suitor in the picture. More than anything, their lives are impacted by political and religious beliefs.

    This novel is not written in a language of today's common people. It is written in the elegant language of the time period, allowing me to adjust to a more lengthy reading period. It's honestly one-of-a-kind in the genre of historical fiction.

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