SALT HOUSES by Hala Alyan
The meaning of the title is noted three fourth of the way through the book when the family patriarch, Atef, reminisces, “the houses glitter whitely…like structures made of salt before a tidal wave sweeps them away.” His family – 4 generations – leave behind houses as war follows them from Palestine, to Kuwait, Lebanon, Jordan, Boston, Manhattan and back to Lebanon. One of the daughters in trying to identify her heritage is at a loss. Is she Palestinian – she has never lived there. Is she Lebanese or Arab or Kuwaiti or……..
And that is the essence of this tale. What is our heritage? Is it the place of our birth, where we live NOW, where we lived before, how do we define ourselves?
Alyan describes loss and heartache in beautiful prose. Her characters live and breathe. The sense of place is palpable. Although this tale is specifically Palestinian, the rootlessness of the refugee is timeless and placeless.
You will need the family tree at the beginning of the book to keep the generations straight. The time and place notations at the beginning of each chapter help the reader keep track of the family’s migrations and the time frame of the various wars and tragedies from just before the 6 Day War through the current Middle East uprisings.
Lots for book groups to discuss here.
5 of 5 stars
MUSIC OF THE GHOSTS BY Vaddey Ratner
Oh my goodness! What to say about this book. First the good. The writing is lyrical. Some phrases are exquisite. The word usage is wonderful. Then there is the story. I am SOOOOO confused. I tried very hard to like this book, but just couldn’t do it. The Old Musician and his reminisces wander all over-- future, past, present -- all in present tense.
Somewhere around page 200, the story began to make sense. If you can make that far -- this tale of Cambodia and Khmer Rouge, death, love, life, hate, perseverance, family, faith -- becomes full of life and forces one to engage its loveliness and its heartbreak. Teera and the Old Musician enter your heart and mind and take up residence. They stay with you long after you have read the last page.
Still, only 3 of 5 stars for the slow start, the initial confusion, the ethereal sentences.
TAKE OUT by Margaret Maron
I love Maron’s Deborah Knott books. This is only the second Sigrid Harald novel I have read. I was unfamiliar with the recurring characters, so I was often to turning back to see “who is this”, especially considering there are three separate plots and three sets of characters to keep straight.
Once I got familiar with them, all the plot(s) moved along quickly.
The New York setting was on point with a number of neighborhood businesses and interest points used. Lt. Harold’s relationship with artist Oscar Nauman is part of the plotting along with a gallery, a mobster’s family and an aging opera star. The plots are intriguing and keep you guessing (I did quickly figure out one point, yea, me) with enough ambiguity to keep you reading.
Good reading, but I still like the Deborah Knott books better.
4 of 5 stars
HOPE IN THE HOLLER by Lisa Lewis Tyre This delightful middle grade novel features a plucky 5th grader who has just lost her mother to cancer. Wavie is sent to live in a tiny Appalachian hamlet with an aunt she didn’t know existed. Wavie acts and speaks like a real 5th grader. So, too, do the other young people in her new town. Her aunt, Samantha Rose, is a horror and her cousin isn’t much better. An uncle and a weird old man make up the rest of the main characters in this lively novel. A mystery and secrets lead to the plot which moves along quickly. Middle graders will love this book that emphasizes honesty, pluck, determination, kindness, friendship and bravery. This would be a good book for a parent/child book club or an all student book group. Even boys would like it as there are several interesting boy characters in the plot. 5 of 5 stars