At first glance, the fiercely loving family at the heart of Hala Alyan’s extraordinary The Arsonists’ City has it all. The parents, Idris and Mazna, lead a life of upper-class comfort in California, while their three children pursue seemingly glamorous careers in Brooklyn, Austin, and Beirut. Yet the family is thrown into disarray when Idris impulsively decides to sell his family home in Beirut following the death of his father. Mazna, a former actress in her native Syria, uses her formidable charm and political skills to summon all three children to the family man for one last visit to the ancestral manse. Yet once reunited, long held family secrets erupt, threatening to upend the fragile peace among family members and causing everyone to reckon with uncomfortable truths in their own personal lives.
Posts Tagged ‘Hala Alyan’
Hala Alyan’s debut novel Salt Houses spans four generations in the life of a family on the West Bank, following their journey from the early 60s to the present day. Through all of the challenges the family endures—wars, invasions, love affairs, and displacement—they are held together by the luminous Alia. Equal parts headstrong and effervescent, Alia loves her family with a fierce compassion and remains bonded to them as various forces compel them to move to Kuwait, Beirut, Boston, and Paris. Alyan’s background as a clinical psychologist is evident in the novel, endowing characters big and small with an emotional complexity. The Millions praised Salt Houses as a “heartbreaking and important story” while Bustle said that it “illuminates the heartache and permanent unsettledness experienced by refugees all over the world.” Alan spoke with Brendan Dowling via telephone on April 18th.