“Salt Houses” by Hala Alyan is one of my favorite novels this year. I fell head over heals for it. I think you will too.
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.
As you can see, this novel actually takes place in a time frame most of us are familiar with. Even though I have always been aware of this war, I knew so little about it. And certainly not enough of the specifics.
This novel begins in Nablus,
a city on the Northern West Bank of Palestine. “Spanning five generations, siblings, cousins, grandparents, children– are displaced over and over again. From Palestine to Jordan,
Lebanon to Kuwait, Boston to New York, and back to Palestine again, this is a story of people losing, finding, and making their way. “Salt Houses” gives voice, body and love to people whose lives in this country tend, at most, to be featured anonymously in news accounts.”
I am using quotes more than ever here because there is no better way to explain this story. There are many family members to remember and keep track of. They are all important. Each person suffers great sacrifice and loss. And there are many secrets and wrong-doings. It’s all quite heart-breaking.
Hala Alyan was born in 1986 and has lived in various parts of the Middle East. She’s an award-winning poet and lives in New York City now.
This lyrical novel is as timely as it gets. We’ve all watched the news over the years, never more so than now. We see what’s happening in the Middle East. We know the truth of it. But we are so far from the action. Unless you have family or friends living in the region, or are a journalist, you have probably missed a lot. Hala Alyan brings it up front and puts it in our face. She’s done this in a way we can hopefully understand. And her musical prose is a joy to read. The people are people just like we are. These are not just some displaced poor retches. These people were considered wealthy. Thankfully, they were able to start over. There was money. Even having said that, what a way to live. And money can’t always save lives…
I found this heartfelt novel to realistically portray the plight of immigrants in the Middle East. I think you will too.
Kirkus reports about “The Salt Houses.” “A deeply moving look inside the Palestine diaspora.” That sums it up beautifully.
I can’t remember a year filled with more diversity in novels than this year. I love it. Just fuels my mind to want to learn more.
I received a review copy of “The Salt Houses” by Hala Alyan
from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt publisher in exchange for an honest review. I absolutely LOVED it! It’s certainly worthy of the Artis-Naples Summer Reading list. Cheers.
Hardcover: 310 pages: Available now. Buy it:)