All the Salt in the Sea by Tammy L. Harrow
“Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear.” – George Addair
Tammy L. Harrow creates a riveting fictional account of a domestic reality for far too many women in All the Salt in the Sea. Abby West was an emotionally vulnerable young woman when she became pregnant unexpectedly during her first year of medical school by her controlling boyfriend whom she had planned on breaking up with. With a child on the way his status as a medical student peer from a wealthy and well-connected family in St. Augustine, FL as well as his flattering and persuasive personality, convinced her to reluctantly drop out of medical school and get married. For the next 19 years she devoted her life to raising her daughter and being the dutiful doctor’s wife. But, not matter how perfect she kept the house, raised their daughter Ruby, or engaged in all activities expected of a well-connected doctor’s wife, she was never good enough for her controlling, narcissistic husband who preyed on her depression and anxiety to keep her acting and believing the way he wanted. When Abby learns that her husband has an eight year old son and has been maintaining an affair with his mother, she finds the courage to run off to Italy to clear her head and bring closure to the loss of her deceased Italian grandmother who raised her, by searching out her grandmother’s childhood best friend. Her quest brings her more than she expects through Daniel Quinn, who helps her heart and mind reconnect with the person she used to be.
“Of all the things I know to be true, real love is so precious and rare those of us lucky enough to find it should hang on with both hands – never let it go, no matter the cost, whether it means being patient or fighting for it.”
All the Salt in the Sea is such a multi-faceted book that it is hard to know where to start when describing it. It is much like the water in the tub being sucked down the drain. Tammy captures your attention from the first sentence, which places Abby on a bus on a two-way mountain road with blind curves to Positano, effectively drawing you into the slow moving current of the water. As the story in Italy unfolds, we slowly learn the backstory that led her on this trip and experience Abby’s mental and emotional journey of acknowledgement, self-actualization, and discovery of unconditional love. Daniel has his own demons but is able to make Abby see her individual beauty and worth. His love also fortifies her own resolve to deal with her husband and marriage head on. Through all this, small interjections of her husband through texts, the smell of his cologne, or thoughts of his previous actions lay a foundation of growing suspense for the inevitable confrontation. This draws your thoughts and emotions into the ever-increasing and tightening vortex where you culminate in a horrifying chain of events.
“I will carry the scars from him making me feel like he was the only person who could ever love me, and that the only place for me in this world was at home as his wife.”
The underlying theme of All the Salt in the Sea, regaining one’s identity and life from a narcissistic and controlling husband, is a painful and difficult topic to write about. From outward appearances, these types of people come across as loving and devoted partners. In reality, the truth is that they slowing manipulate and control their spouse, breaking down their identity and self-worth. It is also a struggle for victims to break free from these relationships and the cycle of denigration. When they do, many find an even uglier situation as their abuser loses control of them. Tammy does a wonderfully accurate but also entertaining job of broaching this subject through a fictional story full of romance, suspense, drama, and reconciliation. All the Salt in the Sea will consume you, depress you, infuriate you, but ultimately give you hope in the power of love.
Tanya’s love for books has been a lifelong passion that she likes sharing with others. Reading is also the thing that relaxes her after a day of juggling the many responsibilities that come with being being wife to an amazing man, mother to four great kids spread around the world, business manager, and farm hand on their place in southwest Missouri; home to Akaushi cattle and a menagerie of pygmy goats, horses, chickens, dogs and cats.