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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Three themes that don't quite come together, April 22, 2012
This review is from: House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East (Hardcover)
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Anthony Shadid is a prize-winning American journalism of Christian Lebanese descent who has reported on events in the Middle East. In this book, he weaves together the classic American immigrant story (his family settled in Oklahoma City), the history of his family's home town of Marjayoun, and his own story of rebuilding the family home. His rebuilding project structures the book, introducing Shadid to the work habits of Lebanese contractors in a once-proud town that has become a backwater, and introducing the reader to some local characters. Not surprisingly, war lurks in the background.

Each piece is interesting but not quite interesting enough, and they don't really come together. Shadid doesn't really motivate his own decision to rebuild the house. It's clear that war reporting destroyed his first marriage, and it's harming his relationship with his daughter. So he wants to recapture a sense of "home" (bayt) and extended family. That explains the desire to explore his roots, but doesn't make the connection from people to the abandoned old house. The family theme also doesn't do a good job connecting to the frustrating details of a construction project.

Shadid doesn't seem aware of it, but I was struck by how many of the people here - including Shadid - seem to be suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome. Emotional numbness, hopelessness, trouble with concentration, difficulty with close relationships, irritability and self-destructive behavior are all evident among the people of Marjayoun - so much so that a non-doctor like myself with no experience with PTSD noticed.

There's a lot of pain here but the author does not allow himself to go deeply into those personal issues. My suspicion, and it's just a suspicion, is that going deeper would make this a more compelling book and would also provide the connection that is currently missing in these three stories. Shadid is a talented writer, and it's too bad this book didn't end up coming together more effectively.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 6, 2012 11:12:57 AM PDT
It seems like you and I read two different books. WHat I loved abaout the writing was the fact that he did NOT connect every emotional/psychological dot. He did not analyse himself or others but left spaces for the reader to ponder the impact of all the years of war and the relationships of those who left and those who stayed. I think he even says he hopes that by writing the book he might come to some deeper understanding. Who is able to find explanations for feelings as they are happening. Not many of us..and those who are able to do so are guessing!

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 11, 2012 9:15:34 AM PDT
Not reading "different books," I don't think, but different reactions to the same book - I can see that someone would like unconnected dots, but I would have liked more introspection. Different tastes, I think.

Anyway, thanks for a good comment.
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Location: Indianapolis, IN, USA

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