Reader reviews and comments on Salt Houses, plus links to write your own review.

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Salt Houses

by Hala Alyan

Salt Houses by Hala Alyan X
Salt Houses by Hala Alyan
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  • First Published:
    May 2017, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2018, 336 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Claire McAlpine
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Reviews

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Power Reviewer
Becky H

Salt Houses
The meaning of the title is noted three fourth of the way through the book when the family patriarch, Atef, reminisces, “the houses glitter whitely…like structures made of salt before a tidal wave sweeps them away.” His family – 4 generations – leave behind houses as war follows them from Palestine, to Kuwait, Lebanon, Jordan, Boston, Manhattan and back to Lebanon. One of the daughters in trying to identify her heritage is at a loss. Is she Palestinian – she has never lived there. Is she Lebanese or Arab or Kuwaiti or…

And that is the essence of this tale. What is our heritage? Is it the place of our birth, where we live NOW, where we lived before, how do we define ourselves?
Alyan describes loss and heartache in beautiful prose. Her characters live and breathe. The sense of place is palpable. Although this tale is specifically Palestinian, the rootlessness of the refugee is timeless and placeless.

You will need the family tree at the beginning of the book to keep the generations straight. The time and place notations at the beginning of each chapter help the reader keep track of the family’s migrations and the time frame of the various wars and tragedies from just before the 6 Day War through the current Middle East uprisings.

Lots for book groups to discuss here.
Iris F

Meaningful and Well Written
This was a meaningful and well written book. My heart went out to this family and I was moved by the women who took their food and customs with them wherever they went to make every new residence a home.

As a Jew it was difficult to see the animosity and the radicalization against them even though their problems were imposed by Arab nations. This resulted in somewhat of a mental block for me.

On the other hand it humanized these people. We live in the thought that Palestinians are brought up on the hatred of Jews. Other than the radicalization of two characters these people were portrayed as normal people who just want to live their lives like everyone else. From that point in the book on, I didn’t concentrate on individual characters. I just read the book looking at the whole picture.

I see this book as an important read and also a great book for book clubs to discuss. I will definitely read this book again and I’m glad I had the opportunity to read it.
Leia Lona

Timely intergenerational story
I enjoyed the overall story of this Middle Eastern family as they dealt with the impact of war on their lives over 50 years. I am a fan of these types of stories and also enjoy immigrant stories as well.
The family tree in the front was helpful in keeping track and I liked the author’s use of the individual’s stories to show time passing.
It is a book that I will pass along to other family members that I feel will enjoy it as well.
Linda Locker

Challenging and timely story of the Middle East
Salt Houses is a difficult story and the author did not shy away from difficult situations and family conflicts. It is the story of displacement and yearning for something called “home.” The book covers almost fifty years in the life of a Palestinian family, spanning the years 1963 to 2014. The family tree included in the front of the book was very helpful. Each section is told from the perspective of a different family member. I thought the voice of the girls and women were particularly strong and very candid. The story did move slowly and I was expecting a greater building to a climax. But, the characters rang true and the author gave hope in the end. The story of this family, unfortunately, has been lived by many, many refugees. This diaspora continues to impact the stability of the world today. Salt Houses gives a very personal insight into the real lives of displaced persons and encourages empathy and understanding. I would recommend this book for those who have a real interest in the Middle East and the challenges of it’s displaced people.
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Beyond the Book:
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