Book Review: SALT HOUSES by Hala Alyan

Spanning five generations, SALT HOUSES tells the story of a Palestinian family through years of violence and conflict. As the Six-Day War of 1967 forces Alia and her family to leave their beloved Nablus, they must rebuild their lives in a foreign city. They will soon be forced to leave again, and Alia and her family will journey across the world in search of one thing: home.

In Hala Alyan’s debut novel, she tells the history of a global conflict through the story of one family, and she does it skillfully. It’s a layered novel with years of history and generations of characters with different experiences and personalities. From Alia’s mother through Alia’s grandchildren, it’s a large cast of characters, but Alyan never loses the thread of the story.

Alyan is also a poet, and her skill with language is clear as every word and sentence is finely honed and crafted. She’s able to grasp on to emotions and give words to things that should defy description.

Salt Houses explores universal themes of identity, belonging, and home while also giving voice to a narrative that often gets stereotyped or ignored in popular American literature. At this time in American discourse and politics, it’s more important than ever to promote and read these marginalized stories.

The emotions are vivid. The characters are difficult and deeply complex. From word choice to overarching themes, the novel is heartbreaking, elegant, and beautiful. It may not be an easy read, but it is an important read.

Rating: 5/5
Release Date: May 2, 2017

 

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