In a compelling saga of redemption and renewal, a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner tells the story of rebuilding his family''s ancestral home in Lebanon amid political strife, and his eventual understanding of the emotions behind the turbulence in the Middle East.
"Mr. Shadid spoke Arabic fluently as a second language, and throughout the book he probes its layers and resonant words. His artful writing is both simple and complex. His sentences are chiseled and plain, but he eschews straight chronology and formal transitions between past and present, slipping fluidly in and out of history. Because of this technique the stories of his ancestors fleeing the chaos that followed the Ottoman Empire's collapse are not always easy to follow, but the overall effect is as pleasing as watercolor." - Steve Coll 02/27/2012
"[The book] offers a powerful reminder of the impact that never-ending insecurity has on people long after the violence that ruined their lives has been forgotten by the rest of the world." - Patrick Cockburn 03/11/2012
"Shadid interlaces stories of his struggles with workmen with tales of his family's journey to America." 03/15/2012
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The Arabic language evolved slowly across the millennia, leaving little undefined, no nuance shaded. Bayt translates literally as house, but its connotations resonate beyond rooms and walls, summoning longings gathered about family and home. In the Middle East, bayt is sacred. Empires fall. Nations topple. Borders may shift or be realigned. Old loyalties may dissolve or, without warning, be altered. Home, whether it be structure or familiar ground, is, finally, the identity that does not fade.
In old marjayoun, in what is now Lebanon, Isber Samara left a house that never demanded we stay or enter at all. It would simply be waiting, if shelter was necessary. Isber Samara left it for us, his family, to join us with the past, to sustain us, to be the setting for stories. After years of trying to piece together Isber’s tale, I like to imagine his life in the place where the fields of the Houran stretched farther than even the dreamer
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