When is a house a home?
In the Middle East, a bayt, literally meaning “home,” is sacred. It is, as Anthony Shadid says, “the identity that does not fade.” With these words, a journey is born.
Pulitzer-prize winner Anthony Shadid was released from captivity in Libya and decided to return to his ancestral home in Lebanon. House of Stone, his last work before his untimely death earlier this year, chronicles his journey as he rebuilt the house and paints a vivid picture of his family’s flight to America.
The memoir is filled with descriptive passages that make the readers feel like they too are part of the struggle to restore Shadid’s bayt. He introduces his family, both still living and long gone, and he introduces his town, Marjayoun, located near the Lebanon-Israel border.
As Shadid works to return his house on the hill to its former grandeur, members of his family become a part of the story, as they work and live, play and escape.
These sections about his family are the true gems of the book. They show a journey of hardship that many of our ancestors -– or maybe we ourselves –- faced, fleeing to America. These scenes bring more meaning to the house than Shadid can explain just through his experiences restoring it.
Shadid spent years in the Middle East as a foreign correspondent for The Washington Post. His work covering the Iraq War earned him two Pulitzer Prizes, and he died of an asthma attack while covering the uprisings in Syria in February.
As House of Stone is Shadid’s final work, reading this very personal tale is all the more special. I highly recommend it for people who have ever tried to discover their family roots.
House of Stone is available from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing at a list price of $26.