Culling Brookhaven hamlet

experiences for a book

Carin Clevidence’s The House on Salt Hay Road now in paperback


Novelist Carin Clevidence has traveled
the world, studied and lived in
several states, and spent time on her
craft in some spectacular spots around
the globe. But when her muse moves
her, it is her hometown of Brookhaven
hamlet that she is drawn to describe.
Although the characters in her debut
novel, The House on Salt Hay Road,
are from another time, the landscape
of the South Shore is as vividly clear as
a photograph. The book, published by
Farrar, Straus and Giroux last year, has
just been released in paperback.
Clevidence spent much of her childhood
running barefoot on the grounds
of her family property at the end of a
tree-lined one-car-width street down by
the bay. Her grandparents were Betty
and Dennis Puleston; well known for
their dedication to environmental conservation
and to the community they
called home for multiple generations.
The family still owns the idyllic property,
where a herd of Alpaca roams by the
pond and the chickens and peacocks
wait eagerly for treats from visiting
children. Much of the difficult final editing
of the novel was done in the “onion
house,” a small outbuilding facing the
pond on the property.
Clevidence attended Bellport High
School, where she was active in literary
pursuits and environmental issues. She
graduated in 1985 and attended Oberlin
College in Ohio, earning her degree in
1989. She then traveled and worked for
a few years before returning to her studies
and earning a Master of Fine Arts
degree in creative writing from the University
of Michigan. The House on Salt
Hay Road had already begun brewing in
her imagination and she began work on
it soon after graduate school. But marriage
and children put the book on hold.
“It was a period of about seven years,
until my youngest was in kindergarten,
when I really didn’t have the sustained
concentration that a novel requires,”
she said. In the meantime, she wrote
and published short stories.
Once her son started school, Clevidence,
now living in Northampton,
Mass., returned her focus to the novel,
a character-driven story about a family
weathering the storms and shocks of
life, framed by the twin disasters of a
fictional fireworks factory explosion
and the very real hurricane of 1938. A
teenager at the time of the Grucci factory
explosion in 1983, Clevidence was
strongly affected by the event.

“That really made an impression on
me,” she said. “I remember all sorts
of stories, all these descriptions, a tree
that was full of American flags, things
were washing up at old inlet, I always
wanted to put that into something that I
was working on.” Finishing the novel in
2009, she worked with her agent, Sarah
Burnes, until the book was ready to put
out to bid. Clevidence received two bids
on the novel and chose Farrar, Strauss
and Girdoux because of editor Courtney
Hodell. “She is very, very smart. I
talked to her for a long time before she
bid on it. I loved how well she knew it,”
said Clevidence.
The book has been favorably reviewed
by the New York Times and there
are many positive opinions on dozens
of book review websites
and other publications.
“It’s very exciting for me,
I always wanted to be a
writer,” she said.
Clevidence is self-effacing
about her success,
and has a difficult time
with the self-promotion
required to “push” the
book, but she has enjoyed
doing readings, especially
at the Brookhaven Free
Library. “It was wonderful
to do a reading there,
people were asking questions
and I knew them
all by name. I felt so supported,”
she said. This
summer, Clevidence spent much of her
time home on her beloved South Shore,
working on her next novel. “I’ve worked
a lot here this summer,” she said. “This
one is also set here, but in a time I know
well, the 1970’s”.
The House on Salt Hay Road is available
at most bookstores, and online at both in the new paperback
form, original hardcover or as an

Reprinted from:


September 8, 2011


Unless otherwise indicated, the articles and photos on this page are  copywrited and reprinted with the permission of Editor Mark Nolan

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