Where do you go when you can't go 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 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 militarised 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. Spanning fifty years, Salt Houses is a devastating and lyrical debut about one family in the wake of war, about needing to remember, and learning to forget.
"Salt Houses is a piercingly elegant novel that registers Palestine with deep resonance for what it is: a once beloved home, known, lost, and re-imagined into life. A place where families decide between security and happiness, religion and heritage, where war is constant, yet peace is found. In the exquisite prose of a poet, Hala Alyan shows how we carry our origins in our hearts wherever we may roam, and how that history is calibrated by the places we choose to put down roots. This is a book with the power to both break and mend your heart." -- Ru Freeman, author of On Sal Mal Lane "Hala Alyan's Salt Houses flies like a searchlight between history and fiction, unearthing the life of a single displaced Palestinian family among the rubble and illuminating it so deeply, so brilliantly, we cannot help but connect the story's richly imagined past to our very real present." -- Mira Jacob, author of THE SLEEPWALKER'S GUIDE TO DANCING "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 "A striking debut of the disruptions and dispersals of exile, Salt Houses is a heartfelt portrait of the Palestinian diaspora. Powerful, lyrical, and deftly layered with multiple voices, Hala Alyan has done the near impossible: illuminated a half-century of wrenching history with great intimacy." -- Cristina Garcia, author of KING OF CUBA "Salt Houses illuminates the heartache and permanent unsettledness experienced by refugees all over the world, reminding readers of the burdens and the blessings of home." Bustle
Hala Alyan was born in 1986. After living in various parts of the Middle East, she completed a doctorate in clinical psychology at NYU and is now in private practice. She has been published in Guernica and other literary journals, and is the award-winning author of three poetrycollections.