Salt Houses (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

This is an ambitious debut that delivers. In a multi-generational saga of beauty and heartbreak, Halan Alyan deftly shows us the love and sorrows of one Palestinian family as they attempt to find their place in the world as exiles. As each character searches for a sense of home in an increasingly stressful world, family bonds are forged and broken, relationships developed, and the very idea of nationality questioned. Written with lyricism and sympathy, this side of the conflict is rarely shown but impacts us all.

-- Cari

— From Cari Q. Staff Picks

Much like Khaled Hosseni's novels about Afghanistan, Hala Alyan crafts an exquisite novel about Palestine, perpetual exodus, and the trauma that lives within family trees. Salt Houses does what literature does best: create radical empathy. A book as gorgeous as the cover.

-- Gabby

— From Gabby S. Staff Picks

Summer 2018 Reading Group Indie Next List

Salt Houses pulls you into the fabric of the life of this Palestinian family and takes you through one tumultuous decade after another. I can rave about how important this book is for humanizing Muslims in a time of radical stereotyping, but it’s also just a damn good read. The draw of these people is irresistible! Every character is flawed, everyone is beautiful, each struggles with issues that are at times like those of any family, and at times unique to the social and cultural struggles of war-torn communities. Hala Alyan’s writing is infused with color and grace—a phenomenal fiction debut!”
— Katie Plumb, Country Bookshelf, Bozeman, MT


"Reading Salt Houses is like having your coffee grounds read: cosmic, foreboding and titillating all at once. In this magnificent debut, Alyan's powerful and poetic voice guides us into the dark recesses of history and leads us right up to the present tensions between East & West, the modern & ancestral, the hopeless and the hopeful."
--Aline Ohanesian, author of Orhan's Inheritance

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.

About the Author

HALA ALYAN is an award-winning Palestinian American poet and clinical psychologist whose work has appeared in numerous journals including the Missouri Review, Prairie Schooner, and Colorado Review. She resides in Manhattan.

Coverage from NPR

Product Details
ISBN: 9780544912588
ISBN-10: 0544912586
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Publication Date: May 2nd, 2017
Pages: 320
Language: English