The map of salt and stars a novel
Review | The Map of Salt and Stars by Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar - The London MagazineWith clear, exquisite prose, Joukhadar unspools a brightly imagined tale of family and grief, mapmaking and migration. This important book is a love letter to the vanished—and to what remains. It is the summer of , and Nour has just lost her father to cancer. Her mother, a cartographer who creates unusual, hand-painted maps, decides to move Nour and her sisters from New York City back to Syria to be closer to their family. Restless and longing to see the world, she leaves home to seek her fortune.
The Map of Salt and Stars
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Maps are mentioned on almost every page: not just making them but the decisions that making them involves, what lands they cover and what lands they leave out. In present-day Manhattan, the immigrant family of a young woman named Nour, reeling from the death of its patriarch, decides to relocate to their maternal home city of Homs, a refreshing reversal of the familiar tale of leaving an unstable country and heading to America. Seeking out a legendary mapmaker, Al-Idrisi, she joins him as his apprentice on a long voyage. The two stories unfold gracefully, mirroring and overlapping. Both Nour and Rawiya cut their hair, finding freedom and protection in their disguise as boys. Although more could have been made of gender transgressions within an Islamic context, Joukhadar is excellent at interweaving the short sections of her storytelling, always holding taut the narrative thread. Soon the rumble of bombs comes close.
Rate this book. This rich, moving, and lyrical debut novel is to Syria what The Kite Runner was to Afghanistan; the story of two girls living eight hundred years apart - a modern-day Syrian refugee seeking safety and a medieval adventurer apprenticed to a legendary mapmaker - places today's headlines in the sweep of history, where the pain of exile and the triumph of courage echo again and again. It is the summer of , and Nour has just lost her father to cancer. Her mother, a cartographer who creates unusual, hand-painted maps, decides to move Nour and her sisters from New York City back to Syria to be closer to their family. But the country Nour's mother once knew is changing, and it isn't long before protests and shelling threaten their quiet Homs neighborhood. When a shell destroys Nour's house and almost takes her life, she and her family are forced to choose: stay and risk more violence or flee as refugees across seven countries of the Middle East and North Africa in search of safety. As their journey becomes more and more challenging, Nour's idea of home becomes a dream she struggles to remember and a hope she cannot live without.
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In this beautifully nuanced debut novel from Syrian American author, Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar, two parallel journeys alternate with and counter each other, highlighting the connections between the vital importance of the stories we tell and the psycho-geography of maps. In the present day Nour is 12 and lives with her Syrian family in Manhattan. When her father dies, her mother, a mapmaker, decides to take Nour and her older sisters, Huda and Zahra, back home to Syria. Suddenly everything has changed: the family is forced to leave the ruins of their home and become refugees in the devastating Syrian conflict. They travel together, picking up new friends and losing others, facing dangers at every turn. Intertwined with this story is the tale of Rawiya.