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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
A home is much more than stones, bricks and mortar as the reader will soon discover when reading this book by Anthony Shadid. What makes this book so fascinating is the author's personal memoir of how he fulfilled his dream to rebuild and remodel the home owned by his great grandfather in the small town of Marjayoun outside of Beirut. Throughout the book the author includes fascinating and insightful anecdotal true stories about the lives of various family members, contrasting his ancestors history living under the Ottoman Empire with current events in Lebanon including current events of the past twenty to thirty years which nearly destroyed the country. The author remains optimistic as he fulfills his life long dream to revive the shattered dreams of his great grandfather, Ismer Samara and fulfill the longing for a permanent home, melding the past and present.

Anthony Shadid holds the reader's attention throughout this book with heart tugging, heart warming stories of the lives of his ancestors. The reader gets a strong sense of the old Bedouin traditions, values and culture which was the foundation of their lives, even though they settled down to live in the town of Marjayoun. The author conveys a depth of emotion, spirit and sense of cultural identity which is wrapped with layers of meaning. He intersperses Arabic words, that describe moments, events and situations to include feeling, intention and values that can only be conveyed by that language.

The author's has an astonishing ability to convey his experiences, feelings and impressions of the current culture in Lebanon making the reader feel as if her or she were experiencing it for oneself. The author's sense of humor balances the opposite pole which is the destruction, turmoil and change forced on the Lebanese people. Most outstanding is how Anthony Shadid provides insights into the quirky nature and personalities of many superbly described individuals and characters who helped the author fulfill his dream to reconnect with his ancestral roots. I savored the author's descriptions of how life flows in the town of Marjayoun and how he maneuvered through challenges to rebuild his home. Most appealing is how the author described the strong bonds of friendships he forged in his unique community in Lebanon and how he converted suspicion and doubt into acceptance as a "returning son" of Lebanon. This book is most outstanding! Erika Borsos [pepper flower]
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on May 3, 2012
"House of Stone" is a primer on Lebanon. Anthony Shadid beautifully illuminates the larger themes of the Middle East - language, ancient and modern history, and war, while intimately weaving in the personal and intimate details that manifest both Shadid's attentiveness to individual personalities and thorough understanding of his milieu. The unique identities of his subjects come alive in his descriptions of their superstitions, minor gestures, and customs. Lebanese culture comes to life in his description of the proper way to serve coffee: guests first, then family, and finally hosts. The beauty and dignity of Marjayoun and south Lebanon serve as the backdrop to plum thieves, gossip, conspiracies, and vendettas that reveal the quirks of a small town.

On multiple occasions, Shadid made me laugh out loud and at other times made my eyes well up with tears as he describes the hilarious and emotional moments of his contemporary experiences in Marjayoun and the difficult journey his ancestors made from the town to Oklahoma. His descriptions of the big personalities and the refined are precise and prescient. His relationships with Shibil, Assaad, Hikmat, Cecil, and Dr. Khairallah change Shadid's perspective and offer readers a glimpse into issues of identity and memory and that which is uniquely Marjayoun, "The accent of the place... words that belonged specifically to the town" (56). Shadid wrestles with the loneliness, pettiness, and at times depression of village life all of which is undergirded by a much more profound sense of history, of loss, and of existential anxiety about the future.

The tension of war and politics are constantly in the background while the tension, rivalries, and skilled labor of the warshe (the building site of Isber Samara's house which Shadid is re-inventing) play out in frustration and hilarity. Shadid introduces readers to the Arabic terminology used to describe the ancient objects and concepts he loves. His descriptions of cuisine, tiles, stone arches, fruit trees, the cherries of Shebaa, and flowers are enough to lift anyone's heart and send them on a vacation to south Lebanon in the spring to appreciate these treasures first hand.

Throughout, Shadid is reflective on his own behavior. He presents his own biases at face value, while allowing his subjects to speak for themselves. Like the author's personality, "House of Stone" is beautiful. Through his writing Shadid demonstrates that prior to his untimely death he had risen to the example of Dr. Khairallah, whom Shadid described as "the kind of man I wanted to be" (190).

As someone who lived through the wars and political events Shadid describes and knows a number of the characters who people his pages, I can attest that Shadid flawlessly and beautifully describes that which is uniquely Lebanese and Marjayoun. I highly recommend this book.
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon February 11, 2012
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East. When I first starting reading this book, I thought:" oh my, I am going to have trouble with all the foreign sounding names...", however it did not take long to become absorbed in this memoir. It is actually quite sad that the Middle East as it used to be, is no longer present. We are so used to seeing images of that region through the lens of the news reporter and the realities of the wars which is the present situation, that it is good to know that at one time it was very different than what it is now. As the author describes the rebuilding of his family home in southern Lebanon, he brings a very personal wisdom and warmth about a region that most often we associate with terrorists. He has the ability to make the reader think about the importance of friendship and history even in the middle of politics and wars and his compassion comes out in his style of writing as he tries to rebuild his past in the land of his ancestors. It is a poignant memoir and evocatively written as he blends the cultures, his need to belong and the hardships he faces. You can sense that even though many people might consider this writing just a " story', it is much more to Anthony Shadid, it is his life.

It resonated with me, because I immigrated to the USA with my parents when I was a teenager and I believe there is something within each person who belongs to two different cultures through their ancestry, that makes you want to go back and make peace with the culture of your past. Anthony Shadid has not only managed to describe a wonderful historical image of a Middle East the way it" used to be ", but also has conveyed to the reader that for some it is possible to go on a personal journey to satisfy the longing of the soul to find out who you really are. I would highly recommend this deeply poignant memoir.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon March 27, 2012
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Sadly, "House of Stone" reaches us as a posthumous publication of the greatly-honored veteran journalist Anthony Shadid. He was a newsmaker himself, as well as a foreign correspondent, based in Baghdad and Beirut, most recently for the New York Times. He twice won journalism's highest honor, the Pulitzer Prize, for International Reporting, in 2004 and 2010. He recently died in Syria, on February 16, 2012, of an acute asthma attack. His 2005 book,Night Draws Near: Iraq's People in the Shadow of America's War, an empathetic look at what the war there has done to the Iraqi people, won the Ridenhour Book Prize for 2006.

This publication is at its heart the story of Shadid's rebuilding a house in Marjatoun, Lebanon, and for the most part resembles other stories of rebuilding houses in foreign climes, with chatter about contractors, subcontractors, and the purchase of tiles. Not too different from books about rebuilding houses in Provence, France, or Tuscany, Italy, except that Shadid is rebuilding his family home, from which his great grandparents left to come to America. He still has many relatives in the town, and, not too surprisingly, he has strong feelings about what decades of war have done to the town, and, in fact, the country of Lebanon.

He also has strong feelings about the Mideast, and delves back into its history. He explains that the Arabic Ottoman Empire at one time controlled in its entirety the Mideast, sometimes called the Levant. So that people were free to wander its lands and do business at will. But after World War I, the empire was broken up by the victors of that war, the United Kingdom and France, and artificial boundary lines were drawn between made-up countries. So that suddenly, there was a Lebanon. And even more suddenly, an Israel. And the Mideast has been a boiling cauldron ever since.

Prior to working for the NY Times, Shadid was Islamic affairs correspondent, based in the Mideast, for the Washington Post. Before that, he was Middle East correspondent for the Associated Press based in Cairo, and news editor of the AP bureau in Los Angeles. He spent two years covering diplomacy and the State Department for The Boston Globe. In 2002, in Ramallah, the Left Bank, he was shot in the shoulder by what he believed to be an Israeli sniper. On March 16, 2011, Shadid and three colleagues were reported missing in Eastern Libya, to which they had gone to report on the insurrection against the dictatorship of Col. Muammar Al-Ghaddafi. The Libyan government released the three several days later.

Shadid was clearly a man who put his money where his mouth was. He walked the walk, and talked the talk; devoted his life to throwing light on conditions in the Mideast. I admire him greatly, but, unhappily, I found this book difficult reading. It took me a long time to struggle through. And I feel I can recommend it only to those with a strong interest in its subject matter.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 6, 2012
Anthony Shedid. I did not know this man's work as a journalist when I read House of Stone. The situation in the middle east is so complex and depressing I usually just skim the headlines if that. But I have always been interested in Lebanon. NO particular reason just that it's the convergence of so many religions/cultures that seemed for awhile to be able to co-exist. Once it was a prospering region, even if the Ottamen Empire also inflicted brutalities. Then came the Brits, the French and the Americans, hacking up the entire landscape creating arbitrary borders... then well, it all fell to rat shit. But this wonderful personal complicated book took me on a journey of discovery of the region thru the history of a family and through one man's attempt to literally scrape away all the tacked on elements to his great grandfather's abandoned house and then reconstruct it as best he could to the way it was, once upon a time, long ago. He was on a leave for a year from covering 'the wars'. So the book is about the reconstruction of his own shattered psyche as much as it is about the house, family and community.
Just before I finished the book, I was so touched by the intimacy of the memoir and so admired the writing I decided to goggle him and read some of his work as a journalist. The first thing I found was his obituary. I had no idea he was 'THAT' Anthony Shedid. I was shocked and deeply saddened. I felt like I had lost a friend, a kindred spirit. But my five star review of this book would have been the same. I just would not feel such a profound sense of the world's loss of such a special person. May he rest in Peace. For he was truly a man of peace.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon April 26, 2012
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This book is actually 2 different stories in 1. It is the story of Anthony Shadid's restoration of his old family home, located in the now seemingly almost ghost town of Marjayoun, Lebanon, but it is also the story of his ancestors who had lived there when Marjayoun was a vibrant place. The author welds the two tales together by using different fonts for each story, but interspersing them.

I enjoyed reading it very much, although it was also quite sad to me, as Anthony had passed away right before I started reading the book, and I had been a fan of his. After all the work, and the year of his life he put into restoring the house to beauty in 2007, I wonder what will happen to it now...

At the time he begins to restore the house, even he wonders if he's crazy - he is looking for a place that will feel like a real home to him - something I think is called "bayt" in Lebanese, and he seems to spare no expense in doing it, even though he knows he will rarely be there to enjoy it. I enjoyed this part of the book the best - he is surrounded by characters, both friends and workers on the house, and they seem to come alive on the page - some of them are quite funny, but all are "characters" in one way or another.

I did enjoy the parts about the history of his ancestors, as well, but it was sometimes a bit harder to follow.

One thread that runs through both stories is the one about war - there seems to always be war, no matter which time you're reading about, and I found that very sad also. War was the reason that the house was vacant - most everyone had fled the country years ago, many to the U.S., and the house had been sitting since the early 1900's or maybe a little later.

I would love to see pictures of the house - I had an advance copy, so don't know if they were included with the final book, but would have added a lot. A very, very good book that I highly recommend!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 18, 2012
This book intrigued me as I have tried to follow what is going on in the Middle East, and the more I had read about it the more confused I became -- When this author suddenly died, I found in reading his obituary, that by reading the book he had just finished before his death, that, finally, I might have some understanding about the Middle East, its past and present -- After finishing this book, I found that I knew more about the Middle East than I had learned from years and years of trying to comprehend what was going on in these countries -- Also, being a person who enjoys genealogy, and wanting to know as much as possible about my family's history, this book gave me that type of enjoyable reading also --- I have a totally different view of this part of the world and the people who live there than I had before I read this book -
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on March 30, 2012
amazing style of writing. Unprecedented knowledge of the rich history of the region with unique objectivity historically missing by foreign journalists approaching this subject matter.Knowledge of the Arabic language adds flavor and significant credibility to the narrative. Hard to put down once you start reading.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on March 29, 2012
This is an especially poignant memoir written by the American journalist, Anthony Shadid, of blessed memory. The House of Stone of the title was the pride and joy of a long ago Ottoman ancestor and Shadid decides to resurrect both the house and the memories of his family. But the workman of rural southern Lebanon do not the same sense of urgency as Shadid does because he is on a sabbatical from work. These stories with workmen provide a fair bit of levity. Another aspect of the memoir are the immigration memories of the Shadid family. In essence, the house is the connection between the two stories. If I have any quibble with this very well done book, it would be that I am not sure the Ottoman era was quite as tolerant as he suggests. RIP.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on February 28, 2012
I have never missed reading and enjoying Shadid's reporting about the Middle East in the New York Times. In fact, upon publishing my novel, A Middle East American, I was ready to mail him a copy, when I heard of his tragic passing away on the borders of Syria and Turkey. I have ordered his splendid book, House of Stone, and read it through the night. It took me back to what I, and millions of immigrants like us, felt, when one leaves a country he was borne in, and moved to an unknown culture, in his case when his parents moved from a Lebanese village into Oklahoma. Shadid flips it back and returns to the village of his ancestors. It's a fascinating act of courage and exploration. He meets the locals, he rebuilds a house his grandfather built. In the process, he takes us with him, and we visit unfamiliar characters, and spans of history, the Ottomans, the migrations, the political scenes, the profound humanity of the Arab world as well as its insanity. It's a book worth reading, if only to understand the conflicts and behaviors of a region we read and hear about daily, and still hardly comprehend
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