02 May 2017

Salt Houses by Hala Alyan

Summary from Goodreads:
From a dazzling new literary voice, a debut novel about  a  Palestinian family caught between present and past, between  displacement and home.

On the eve of her daughter Alia’s wedding, Salma reads the girl’s future in a cup of coffee dregs. She sees an unsettled life for Alia and her children; she also sees travel, and luck. While she chooses to keep her predictions to herself that day, they will all soon come to pass when the family is uprooted in the wake of the Six-Day War of 1967. Salma is forced to leave her home in Nablus; Alia’s brother gets pulled into a politically militarized world he can’t escape; and Alia and her gentle-spirited husband move to Kuwait City, where they reluctantly build a life with their three children.

When Saddam Hussein invades Kuwait in 1990, Alia and her family once again lose their home, their land, and their story as they know it, scattering to Beirut, Paris, Boston, and beyond. Soon Alia’s children begin families of their own, once again navigating the burdens (and blessings) of assimilation in foreign cities.

Lyrical and heartbreaking, Salt Houses is a remarkable debut novel that challenges and humanizes an age-old conflict we might think we understand—one that asks us to confront that most devastating of all truths: you can’t go home again. 

Oh man, this book.  Salt Houses is going on my best-of list this year for sure. I had to take a break about page 74 to charge up the iPad (since I forgot to charge it before Readathon started - oh, the vagaries of digital galleys), but once I started reading again this morning I could not stop.  And I'm so glad this was an end-of-Readathon book as opposed to the beginning because it ruined me for a few days afterward.

Salt Houses is a beautifully crafted story told by rotating among the different members of four generations of a Palestinian family, forced into a nomadic life after their home in Jaffa is lost during the 1948 incursion. Subsequent homes are created and lost over the years - Nablus, Kuwait, Amman, Beiruit, Paris, Boston. The push-pull of culture, homeland, loss, and faith is exquisite. Such a wonderful debut novel.

Dear FTC: I received a digital galley of this wonderful novel from the publisher via Edelweiss.

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