Salt Houses (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

A powerful and moving novel about several generations of a Palestinian family whose lives are repeatedly uprooted and disrupted by war. All the while they confront the common problems and rites of passage for families in any culture--conflict between parents and teenagers, the discovery or rejection of religion, caring for aging parents. A masterful debut from a major talent. — Stan Hynds

This is a beautifully written story of the many generations of a Palestinian family. It is a story of their relationships, their struggles, their love, and their legacy. It tells the meaning of life beautifully and without meaning to in the gorgeous sprawling prose that can only be written by a poet. This is one of the most important novels of the year. You will fall in love with every character and you will never want it to end. — Molly Halpin

As I read Salt Houses, I kept saying to myself, "I recognize that. That's me and my mother, clashing because we're so alike. That's my family's big fight over my grandmother's failing health. That's my family." The story of the human toll of each eruption in the Middle East, with new generations born into the upheaval of their parents' worlds, Salt Houses tells a story as foreign and familiar as family itself.

— Katelynne Shimkus

Alyan instantly had my attention and often my breath with her story of the Palestinian wars and the displacement of families over the past 60 years. Told from the perspective of each family member, spanning three generations. Spot on mother-daughter struggles that were frighteningly easy to relate to. Loved every word. A new favorite! — Gail Cosgriff

May 2017 Indie Next List

“Accomplished poet Hala Alyan exceeds the brilliance of her excellent collections of poems in her moving, deeply felt, powerfully realized first novel, Salt Houses. I can't think of many writers who have so adeptly written of family relationships -here, spanning five generations, all against a vividly rendered backdrop of exile and migration. From Palestine to Jordan, Lebanon to Kuwait, Boston to New York, this is a story of people losing, finding, and making their way. Salt Houses gives voice, body, and love to people whose lives in this country tend, at most, to be featured anonymously in news accounts - and at that, in the negative. This is real life, beautifully written and graciously enlarging the sense of who we are.”
— Rick Simonson, The Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle, WA


"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
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