Book details

Macmillan Children's Book


A Novel

Author: Jessica Andrews; read by Natalie Ann Jamieson




About This Book

This “luminous” (The Observer) feminist coming-of-age novel captures in sensuous, blistering prose the richness and imperfection of the bond between a daughter and her...

On Sale

Book Details

This “luminous” (The Observer) feminist coming-of-age novel captures in sensuous, blistering prose the richness and imperfection of the bond between a daughter and her mother.

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.

Photograph of cloud reflected in puddle: Jason Martin / Millennium Images, UK

Imprint Publisher

Macmillan Audio



In The News

**Winner of the Portico Prize**
Named a Best Debut of Winter by Library Journal
A Best Book of January at the Chicago Review of Books
A 2019 pick in the Guardian, Observer, Independent, Elle and Waterstones

"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

"An audacious debut, an inventively told and intimate coming-of-age story."
Largehearted Boy

"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

"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."

“Engrossing . . . This coming-of-age story will appeal to readers who appreciate strong mother-daughter relationships.”
Publishers Weekly

“Andrews writes beautiful, unusual descriptions, and short chapters give [Saltwater] a poetic sensibility . . . Andrews’ debut declares her one to watch.”
Kathy Sexton, Booklist

“A sensitive, gorgeously told story of a young woman’s coming-of-age.”
—Library Journal

"[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

"Jessica Andrews’ debut novel shimmers with promise: it’s one of those books where, from the first pages, you’re grabbed by a distinctive new voice."
–Holly Williams, Independent (UK)

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

Observer New Review

"A stunning new voice in British literary fiction."
Independent (UK)

"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

"I lived in it. Evocative, sensuous, astute, original, blistering. Sentences to reread and reread."
Lucy Jones

"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

About the Creators