Salt Houses by Hala Alyan

Salt Houses

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 he...

Title:Salt Houses
Author:
Rating:
ISBN:0544912586
Edition Language:English
Number of Pages:320 pages

Salt Houses Reviews

  • Diane S ☔

    4.5 I have thought about this book on and off for the last day or so a buddy read with Angela and Esil. Such a wonderful family, displaced people, living in countries not of their birth. Displaced by war, in Iraq, Kuwait, Palestine, Arabs who try to find a home. We follow this family through generations, chapters devoted to different family members and my favorite from the beginning was Atef. This man who marries Alia, a woman he loves very much, but he is consumed by so much guilt, a quiet man

    4.5 I have thought about this book on and off for the last day or so a buddy read with Angela and Esil. Such a wonderful family, displaced people, living in countries not of their birth. Displaced by war, in Iraq, Kuwait, Palestine, Arabs who try to find a home. We follow this family through generations, chapters devoted to different family members and my favorite from the beginning was Atef. This man who marries Alia, a woman he loves very much, but he is consumed by so much guilt, a quiet man who has so much hope in his family, their lives. This family will eventually be dispersed, some in Paris, Boston, Lebanon, a family divided by circumstances often beyond their control. They are though luckier than many as they have the money to relocate, not having to live in tents in a refugee camp.

    What I was thinking though was how hard it is to live in a country you are unfamiliar with, to heaving to adjust again and again, to, watch your children settle elsewhere. That they only want what we all want, a home, safety, their children close, a place where they are wanted, belong. They worry over their children, their marriages, what they will eat, they laugh, cry, get angry, are sad when they cannot connect with their family. Lastly, some pass on and some get sick, but in the end family is family and so it proves in this story. Yes, it is indeed a story but very real too I believe, honest and thoughtful and about a subject the author herself knows well. Indeed these people are like all of us and I can't help thinking that if people would pay more attention to the things that make us the same instead of the things that make us different, that just maybe there would not be these constant wars. naïve probably, but as you can see this book gave me much to think about.

    ARC from publisher.

  • Jenny (Reading Envy)

    I loved this novel. It takes a Palestinian family and follows different members throughout periods of conflict, chaos, and opportunity. It starts in the early 1960s and follows through the present day. It asks questions about home, family, belonging, and identity. Despite events often being dictated by war and early characters being forced into becoming refugees, the focus is much more domestic. The characters are worried about their relationships, their toys, their classes. I really appreciated

    I loved this novel. It takes a Palestinian family and follows different members throughout periods of conflict, chaos, and opportunity. It starts in the early 1960s and follows through the present day. It asks questions about home, family, belonging, and identity. Despite events often being dictated by war and early characters being forced into becoming refugees, the focus is much more domestic. The characters are worried about their relationships, their toys, their classes. I really appreciated the juxtaposition because so often characters in novels where war is present can only talk to each other about the war. There are tiny details that come back around and have a great impact. I will be nominating this for my book club for next year!

  • Esil

    There’s something about Salt Houses that worked perfectly for me. It’s a multi-generational story about a family originally from Palestine, displaced and scattered, but that remains strongly united over the years. The story is told from the alternating points of view of a few family members across three generations, starting in 1967 up to today. Each lengthy chapter picks up a few years after the previous chapter, but flits back and forth in time, catching us up on what happened in the last few

    There’s something about Salt Houses that worked perfectly for me. It’s a multi-generational story about a family originally from Palestine, displaced and scattered, but that remains strongly united over the years. The story is told from the alternating points of view of a few family members across three generations, starting in 1967 up to today. Each lengthy chapter picks up a few years after the previous chapter, but flits back and forth in time, catching us up on what happened in the last few years. The points of view are deeply subjective, immersing us into these characters’ idiosyncratic understanding of their lives and their place in the family. The women in particular resonated for me. This is not a dysfunctional family, but it is a family of strong personalities -- full of love but with lots of jagged edges. The writing is beautiful – expressive but crisp -- not flowery or sentimental. I loved the sense of place and the way in which recent history is woven through the story. The theme of dislocation is familiar, but Salt Houses treats it with more subtlety and finesse than many books I have read. Highly recommended. One of my fiction favourites so far this year. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for an advance copy. And thanks to Angela and Diane for another excellent buddy read.

  • Angela M

    4.5 stars

    A displaced family, a multigenerational story of their lives over decades in the various places they move to - from Jaffa to Kuwait to Amman to Paris and Boston . A Palestinian family, the Yacoubs, a family of means is not unscathed by the wars and the politics of the places in which they live because they live comfortably. It affords them the ability to leave their home when they have to insure their safety but it doesn't insulate them from the deep emotional consequences of being disp

    4.5 stars

    A displaced family, a multigenerational story of their lives over decades in the various places they move to - from Jaffa to Kuwait to Amman to Paris and Boston . A Palestinian family, the Yacoubs, a family of means is not unscathed by the wars and the politics of the places in which they live because they live comfortably. It affords them the ability to leave their home when they have to insure their safety but it doesn't insulate them from the deep emotional consequences of being displaced. These are not the refugees that we read about in the news and see on tv news casts living in tents and starving. This is not a story that primarily focuses on the ravages of the wars, but on how the displacement from their home and from the places they call home affects who they are, how they live. I was taken right from the beginning by the writing and I loved reading about the customs, how the children and then the grandchildren resist the traditions, how the future evolved with them. I really like the multiple points of view with alternating chapters of some of the family members.

    The sense of loss, of identity for the children and grandchildren of Alia and Atef depicts what so many people must have felt like after 9/11, how they were treated because of where they were born. "Souad felt the clerks' gaze - two young Midwestern men, eyes like icepicks - on them the entire time. One of the men flung the change at her, several coins falling to the ground. Souad's fear was like a bell waking her. As they were leaving, she caught the words terrorist and bitch and a burst of laughter." And Linah , the next generation, feeling confused and is speechless when a girl in school says, "You think your people deserve to be here? My mom told me all about them. Palestinians killed my uncle during the war."

    While their experience is not typical, I loved that so much about them felt typical- the teenagers especially. What I loved most was how the family all comes together. I loved the family dynamics, loved that the children and grandchildren came to know who they were even though only one of the grandchildren gets to go the place where the family begins - depicted in a beautiful scene by the sea. The one thing that was a little bothersome and perhaps the reason for taking off a half star was that I was confused at times in the earlier chapters when time frames of the past and present in a single chapter were not clear. Having said that I found the most beautiful writing in the book in the last few chapters and the epilogue. Hala Aylan's poetic talent is reflected in her beautiful prose and moving scenes. Definitely recommended.

    Another great read along with Diane and Esil.

    I received an advanced copy of this book from Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt through NetGalley.

  • Karen

    4.5

    This is a beautiful story about a Palestinian family uprooted from their home in Nablus in 1967 in the wake of the Six-Day War.

    The story begins with a mother named Salma reading her daughter Alia's future in a cup of coffee dregs on the eve of her wedding, and follows this family through their displacement to Kuwait. In 1990 they lose everything again and scatter to Beirut, Paris, and the United States.

    We will see this family grow, Alia's children, grandchildren, and follow their heartbreaks

    4.5

    This is a beautiful story about a Palestinian family uprooted from their home in Nablus in 1967 in the wake of the Six-Day War.

    The story begins with a mother named Salma reading her daughter Alia's future in a cup of coffee dregs on the eve of her wedding, and follows this family through their displacement to Kuwait. In 1990 they lose everything again and scatter to Beirut, Paris, and the United States.

    We will see this family grow, Alia's children, grandchildren, and follow their heartbreaks and blessings.

    Thank you to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, author Hala Allan, and NetGalley for this advanced copy!

  • Carol
  • Jen

    I wasn't sure what a salt house was before reading this so I googled the crap out of it and there was still no definitive definition. A house by the sea was the closest I got - but that's all you need to know for this one.

    This is a multigenerational story of a family in the Middle East. It's where traditions are weaved intricately into the daily lives of this family. It starts with a coffee ground reading for a girl about to be married, which foretells of a horrific and unstable future.

    Not long

    I wasn't sure what a salt house was before reading this so I googled the crap out of it and there was still no definitive definition. A house by the sea was the closest I got - but that's all you need to know for this one.

    This is a multigenerational story of a family in the Middle East. It's where traditions are weaved intricately into the daily lives of this family. It starts with a coffee ground reading for a girl about to be married, which foretells of a horrific and unstable future.

    Not long after, the 6 day war in Palestine begins which alters this family's life by taking with it a brother and displacing them into another country.

    Years later, another war in Kuwait takes place. Displacing them yet again. The devastation that comes with it leaves me haunted. The loss of their home which is the centre of their memories; of their family. The loss of friends, siblings, children and the heaviness that comes with moving on when one has no choice.

    A heartbreaking yet hopeful story of pain; grief; and the chance to pick up the pieces - for their children; for their own lives. Told from multiple perspectives of one family, this story is one of survival and the costs war has on lives, traditions, faith and what is known as home. Beautifully descriptive this one gets a 5*****.

  • Maureen

    “We can't imagine how dreadful, how terrifying war is; and how normal it becomes. Can't understand, can't imagine. That's what every soldier, and every journalist and aid worker and independent observer who has put in time under fire, and had the luck to elude the death that struck down others nearby, stubbornly feels. And they are right.”

    ― Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others

    I can't even begin to imagine how it must feel to be faced with the fact that you can never return to your home. T

    “We can't imagine how dreadful, how terrifying war is; and how normal it becomes. Can't understand, can't imagine. That's what every soldier, and every journalist and aid worker and independent observer who has put in time under fire, and had the luck to elude the death that struck down others nearby, stubbornly feels. And they are right.”

    ― Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others

    I can't even begin to imagine how it must feel to be faced with the fact that you can never return to your home. That most precious of places - a safe haven from all the madness that takes place in the big outside world. However, this is exactly what our family in 'Salt Houses' has to face when they are uprooted as a result of the Six Day War of 1967.

    The story begins on the eve of Alia's wedding, when her mother Salma reads her daughter's future in the dregs of her coffee cup. Salma doesn't like what she sees, namely an unsettled life for Alia, but she decides to keep that knowledge to herself.

    Salma is forced to leave her home in Nablus and Alia and her husband move to Kuwait to start a new life albeit reluctantly. When Saddam Hussein invades Kuwait, once again the family are uprooted and so the scene is set for this rich and colourful family.

    The author allows us to follow this family through the generations, and paints a picture that is hard to witness. Displacement is a shocking thing to experience, to not belong anywhere. The family isn't perfect, there are the inevitable arguments, but it's wonderful to watch as they share grievances, laughter, celebrations, meals, and fears.

    Let me just say, that right now I have a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes on finishing this book, I feel as if I've got to know this family, and Alia's husband Atef is a delight. This gentle man lives with guilt, but loves his whole family unconditionally, and it's so easy to love him. In some ways the family are better off than most, as they have the money to relocate each time, whereas others have to live in refugee camps in nothing more than a flimsy tent.

    The author has done a splendid job of relating how it feels to be a displaced person, and just how cruel war really is. Insightful and heartbreaking.

    *Thank you to Netgalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for my ARC in exchange for an honest review*

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