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binh / lots wife

onewhowalks's picture

For my first reflection on The Book of Salt, I want to talk about some biblical salt. First, the title of Truong's novel replicates the style of the titles of each Biblical "Book:" Book of Esther, Book of Job, Book of Genesis, etc. 

The first book of the Old Testament is the Book of Genesis. Chapter 19 holds the story of Lot, a nephew of Abraham, who lived in Sodom. God had decided to destroy Sodom because of how sinful it was; namely, that gay sex was popular in Sodom (think: SODOMy). Because Lot lived there, Abraham pleaded with God to spare Sodom; God compromised that if 10 "righteous" were found there, the city would not be destroyed.  Angels were sent to Sodom and Gomorrah; they stay with Lot. The men of the town gather around his house so that they might "know" the men who are staying with them- he offers his virgin, engaged daughters up for sex to spare the 2 traveling men/angels. The men of the town accuse him of being a judgemental foreigner, and the angels make all the men blind. They then tell Lot that God is going to destroy the town and that he should take his wife and daughters and leave. As God rains down burning sulfur on the towns of Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot's wife looks back, in sorrow for lost roots. God turns her into a pillar of salt. 

God isn't just warning against homosexuality, he's warning against nostalgia. 

Christianity IS a presence in the Book of Salt- not just in the title, but The Old Man (whose voice/ideals/morals stay with Binh even after Binh is away from his father) was deeply involved with The Church. But twisted. Binh is nostalgic (and gay) but maybe he will challenge the biblical ideals shown in Genesis. 

Also, salt comes up in many places throughout the bible: in sacrificial rituals and as a sacred symbol. Additionally, in Ezekiel 16:4, this line appears in a section labeled sometimes as "Jerusalem as an Adulterous Wife":

"our ancestry and birth were in the land of the Canaanites; your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite. On the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to make you clean, nor were you rubbed with salt or wrapped in cloths. No one looked on you with pity or had compassion enough to do any of these things for you."

Salt is acting in tandem with washing and swaddling to clean and prepare infants for a good life. Seems important.

I'm sure this connection isn't anything new, but I felt like I wanted to bring it into this space. Also I'll maybe add more later, but I'm falling asleep! 


calamityschild's picture

this is a connection i didn't make until you brought it up! i feel as if this will be a helpful analogy to make in the book...thank you for sharing your thoughts!