2 of 6
Salt Houses
320 pages; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Hala Alyan's sweeping debut novel is told in a series of snapshots of the Yacoub family, beginning at the wedding of Alia and Atef in Nablus in 1963, and concluding with the couple, now grandparents of four, in present-day Beirut. In between, the Palestinian family is uprooted by the Six-Day War and later by Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait. Scattered across the Middle East and Europe, Alia, Atef and their siblings and children must deal with the inheritance of displacement and the constant longing for connection—all of which Alyan depicts with understated beauty. "How many windows should any person own?" Atef wonders late in his life, reflecting on the series of homes his family inhabited over the years. They "glitter whitely in his mind, like structures made of salt, before a tidal wave comes and sweeps them away."
— Ruth Baron