One of the most wonderful things about the public library is the deliciously broad catalog it offers. There are so many books I would never have encountered, and I would be less for it. I tend to prefer genre fiction (sci fi and fantasy) and prefer the welcoming ease of young adult over challenging myself in my “me” time. But the library? I have to wait so long and then they’re only available for a short time and that creates this awesome urgency that means I read so much more broadly than I ever have before.
Anyway, that’s how I came to read Salt Houses. This is a story that spans generations and continents, from the 1960s to the present, from the Middle East to Europe to North America. We start with Salma, the matriarch of the family, and follow her from her home in Jaffa to a refuge in Nablus, both in the West Bank. From there we follow her children to Kuwait and to Jordan and to Lebanon and their children to France and to America, and back. I really, really wish I had paid better attention in my history classes and I want to look in to maybe taking classes at a local college because I keep picking up novels set against these (recent) historical backgrounds I know so little about.
The characters feel so, so real. Understated and flawed, so utterly like people you could know in any walk of life. Each generation understanding their shared history but feeling further removed from it. Children growing and changing and leaving and coming back. This wasn’t a book about suffering, this was a book about people who in their own ways sometimes suffered. I wasn’t over the moon about it, but I did very much enjoy it and I do recommend it. If you want to spend time with people you might know in worlds you might not, read Salt Houses.