“No one knows the human heart like Hala Alyan.” —Mira Jacob
A rich family story, a personal look at the legacy of war in the Middle East, and an indelible rendering of how we hold on to the people and places we call home
The Nasr family is spread across the globe—Beirut, Brooklyn, Austin, the California desert. A Syrian mother, a Lebanese father, and three American children: all have lived a life of migration. Still, they’ve always had their ancestral home in Beirut—a constant touchstone—and the complicated, messy family love that binds them. But following his father’s recent death, Idris, the family’s new patriarch, has decided to sell.
The decision brings the family to Beirut, where everyone unites against Idris in a fight to save the house. They all have secrets—lost loves, bitter jealousies, abandoned passions, deep-set shame—that distance has helped smother. But in a city smoldering with the legacy of war, an ongoing flow of refugees, religious tension, and political protest, those secrets ignite, imperiling the fragile ties that hold this family together.
In a novel teeming with wisdom, warmth, and characters born of remarkable human insight, award-winning author Hala Alyan shows us again that “fiction is often the best filter for the real world around us” (NPR).
“I didn’t think I could love The Arsonists’ City as much as Salt Houses, but I did. It was sharp, thought-provoking. I couldn’t put it down. Hala Alyan is a lyrical force, a much-needed Arab American voice.”
—Etaf Rum, New York Times best-selling author of A Woman Is No Man
Hala Alyan is the author of the novel Salt Houses, winner of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize and the Arab American Book Award, and a finalist for the Chautauqua Prize, as well as the forthcoming novel The Arsonists’ City and four award-winning collections of poetry, most recently The Twenty-Ninth Year. Her work has been published by TheNew Yorker, the Academy of American Poets, LitHub, the New York Times Book Review, and Guernica. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, where she works as a clinical psychologist.