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A Woman of Salt

"Looking back: That's the theme of Mary Potter Engel's provocative book, A Woman of Salt, which blends the biblical story of Lot's wife with the modern-day tale of protagonist Ruth VanderZicht...It's an intriguing format for a novel, and Engel, a clear, evocative writer with a background as a theology professor, pulls it off...In the end, the reader is left to ponder the fascinating questions raised by this novel."

The Washington Post Book World

Opening to Chapter Two, "A Hundred Fingers"

The summer I was nine I knew a man with twelve fingers. He was the gardener at the motel where we lived, a thin, dusty-brown man who seemed to be everywhere. The day we moved into the Sea Ranch we saw him rolling a wheelbarrow across the laen, carting a burlapped palm tree to a freshly dug hole. His hands and forearms were clenched tight with the load, the veins like rivers crossing a myddy plain. When the wheelbarrow hesitated or tilted over bumps, he kept it moving easily, never losing the calm in his shoulders and brow. Except for Tante Sien, my great aunt from Yerseke who visited us once and hel me in her bosomy lap without saying a word, beaming at me, I had never seen a person so quiet in himself.

Opening to Midrash Two, "It is Such a Little Place"

If to look back is death, what then?

Choose Lot's way? Sever the past from oneself and live the rest of one's days mutilated, the phantom limb crying out for return?

"It is such a little place!" The first time Lot says this, he means to persuade the angels that the cozy town he wishes to flee to is of no consequence and that therefore it will cost them nothing to spare it along with him and the rest of his family. "What is Zoar?" he argues. "It is nothing."

The angels, who are guiding him to the mountains for refuge, do not reply.

"Let me flee there," Lot begs, adding again, "It is such a little place."

Four words--"Let me flee there"--separate the first "It is such a little place" from the second. Yet between the first utterance of this plea and its plaintiv repetition Lot has traveled a great distance. His heart has entered the city of Zoar and seen the confinement of his life there.