Three generations of a Palestinian family face the changing fortunes caused by war in this luminous novel. Salma and Hussam lived in Jaffa in a villa atop a hill, with a view to the sea, surrounded by orange groves. Israeli soldiers came with their tanks, smashing the orange trees, reducing their groves to a pulpy mess. They fled to Nablus where they had family. Salma reads the tea leaves for her daughter Alia on the eve of her child’s wedding. Alia was only 3 when the family left Jaffa. She is marrying Atef, a friend of her brother Mustafa’s since childhood. It is a glorious occasion, the three are tight, great friends to one another, basking in their closeness. This joy will be short lived; the Six Day War will come. Alia will find shelter in the home of her sister Widad in Kuwait. When Saddam Hussein invades, their peace will be shattered again and the next generation, Alia’s children, will face the displacement of war. This beautifully written story follows the progression of the family to Paris, Boston, Jordan, and Beirut. Fully developed characters, an intimacy with the land and culture, and a gripping family saga are rendered with care and respect. Great story.— Deon Stonehouse
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
Winner of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize and the Arab American Book Award
Named a Best Book of the Year by NPR * Nylon * Kirkus Reviews * Bustle * BookPage
“Moving and beautifully written.” — Entertainment Weekly
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.
Lyrical and heartbreaking, Salt Houses follows three generations of a Palestinian family and asks us to confront that most devastating of all truths: you can’t go home again.
“[Alyan is] a master.” — Los Angeles Review of Books
“Beautiful . . . An example of how fiction is often the best filter for the real world around us.” — NPR
“Gorgeous and sprawling . . . Heart-wrenching, lyrical and timely.” — Dallas Morning News
“[Salt Houses] illustrate[s] the inherited longing and sense of dislocation passed like a baton from mother to daughter.” — New York Times Book Review
About the Author
HALA ALYAN is the author of the novel Salt Houses, winner of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize and the Arab American Book Award and a finalist for the Chautauqua Prize, as well as the novel The Arsonists’ City and four award-winning collections of poetry, most recently The Twenty-Ninth Year. Her work has been published by TheNew Yorker, the Academy of American Poets, Literary Hub, the New York Times Book Review, and Guernica. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, where she works as a clinical psychologist.
Winner of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, Fiction Winner of the Arab American Book Award, Fiction A Finalist for the Chautauqua Prize Longlisted for the Aspen Words Literary Prize An NPR Best Book of 2017 One of NYLON's Best Fiction Books of 2017 One of Kirkus Reviews' Best Books of 2017 One of Bustle's 17 Best Fiction Books of 2017 One of BookPage's Best Books of 2017 An Indie Next Pick “Moving and beautifully written, Alyan’s debut chronicles three generations of a Palestinian family as they face two life-altering displacements – the first after 1967’s Six-Day War, and the second following Saddam Hussein’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait.” —Entertainment Weekly “Spring's most powerful novel...mystical, compelling...sweeping.” —Town & Country "[Salt Houses] illustrate[s] the inherited longing and sense of dislocation passed like a baton from mother to daughter." —New York Times Book Review “Some family stories we pass on, adding chapters like rooms to a house; others are burned into our subconscious. Poet Hala Alyan's ambitious debut novel, Salt Houses follows the scattered generations of one Palestinian family for whom 'nostalgia is an affliction,' moving from the Six-Day War and a future glimpsed in a daughter's lipsticked coffee cup, to 9/11 and its aftermath.” —Vogue “Alyan is doing important work through this novel...Salt Houses can be read very simply as a family drama, proving Alyan’s talent as a master of both the family drama genre as well as the depths and complexities of the Palestinian displacement.” —Los Angeles Review of Books "What does home mean when you no longer have a house – or a homeland? This beautiful novel traces one Palestinian family's struggle with that question and how it can haunt generations. Hala Alyan's own family history – for years, she felt as if she belonged nowhere – clearly informed her book, but her professional life as a clinical psychologist who has worked with refugee clients plays a part too. Along with another favorite from this year – Mohsin Hamid's Exit West – this is an example of how fiction is often the best filter for the real world around us." —NPR "Read Salt Houses...In Hala Alyan's novel about a Palestinian family in the aftermath of the Six-Day War, children rebel and return and the matriarch's memories fade with age, fraying the brood's ties to their homeland. In the process, the book reveals the inner lives of people too often lumped together in the service of politics." —New York "Alyan explores the human agency in the face of the harshest realities without compromising the complex nature of the Palestinian diaspora. This is a heart-wrenching, intimate look at the intergenerational impact of losing a homeland." —Ms. Magazine "Gorgeous and sprawling...In many ways, Salt Houses is about the displacement of millions in war-ravaged lands. But more precisely, it's about the significance of 'home'— what it means to make a home, to lose it, and to go home again when nothing looks or feels the same...Heart-wrenching, lyrical and timely, < —