Salt Houses - Hala Alyan
Hala Alyan is a poet, and in her debut novel, it shows. The sentences in Salt Houses are clear and elegant, and so are the emotions. It is clear from the first page that Alyan knows her characters' inner lives well, and, Ferrante-style, she isn't afraid to tell us. This directness makes her occasional moments of lyricism—one character, doubting himself, thinks, I am the roar without the bite, the empty lion—shockingly effective when they happen. She knows how to write a line that feels like a kick in the teeth. But she knows how to write love, too, whether it's a father thinking about his young children or a teenage girl finding God. She knows how to write homesickness, longing, trauma. (I should mention that she's not just a novelist and a poet, she's a psychologist, too.) The emotional world of this novel is enormous and vivid, and even at its saddest, it was a world that I didn't want to leave.