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The Salt House

"The Salt House" chronicles a summer spent living in "Euphoria," a shack on the Provincetown dunes.
“The Salt House” chronicles a summer spent living in “Euphoria,” a shack on the Provincetown dunes.

Every now and then I find a book that’s so intimate, so completely personal, that it makes me feel as if I’m reading someone’s diary. When its prose is positively luminous and it’s about a place that I deeply love, it’s a literary trifecta.

The Salt House: A Summer on the Dunes of Cape Cod was written by Cynthia Huntington, a professor of English and chair of Creative Writing at Dartmouth College and a graduate-level writing program teacher at Vermont College. It describes in a quiet, calming and thoroughly poetic way the summer she spent in a wooden dune shack near Provincetown called “Euphoria” with her new husband, an artist and kindred spirit.  Living in a 12-by-16-foot one-room home without electricity, running water and creature comforts isn’t everyone’s idea of nirvana, but the author’s experiences in this environment from May to September served to fine-tune her senses.  She became a keen observer of Cape Cod’s natural beauty–the stars in the wide-open sky, a sun-soaked environment, the incredible power and beauty of the sea, wildlife at every turn. She describes her adjustment to both the solitude and her new mate in a gorgeous and meditative way.

Be forewarned: if you like plot-driven books, this volume is not for you. But if you yearn to read something that will calm you and allow you to conjure up images of the untamed side of Cape Cod, you’ll love it.

Note: You can hire Art’s Dune Tours, based in Provincetown, to take you through the Cape Cod National Seashore’s gorgeous Race Point Beach and past “Euphoria”. I highly recommend taking this tour after you’ve read Huntington’s book. Doing so will help bring the experiences of her summer spent on the dunes of Cape Cod even more alive for you. The charming and knowledgeable guides at Art’s are deeply connected to the area and are eager to share information about its history and development.

(Photograph: ShackTime.org)

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