After delightedly encountering @hala.n.alyan's incredible poetry, I was so glad to discover that she had recently published her novel, Salt Houses. Beginning in 1963 in Nablus (now in West Bank) and voyaging through Kuwait, Beirut, and Amman amongst other cities, the novel revolves around Alia and her family as they grapple with losing homes and building new ones only to start all over again. Hala brings alive the art of reading fortunes in coffee cups, smell of burnt oranges, the heat, vacuity, and desolation the migrants experience in Kuwait, and the grief which suffuses their lives when Iraq invades Kuwait and they must find a new land yet again in which to construct the scaffolding of their notion of home as fragile as the fortune-bearing coffee-cups. I found the first half of the book which was largely set in Nablus and Kuwait much more engaging than the second one, honestly speaking, personally feeling that there were tad too many characters occupying the stage. Perhaps, the first half with its references to the Kuwait life and the invasion had stronger personal resonances because I am familiar with the ethos, atmosphere, and way of life in the GCC nations. Having grown up in Oman, I came to love it because I saw it as home but how differently would I have seen it had I moved there much later in life, knowing that I could never return home? I still remember seeing the news about the invasion on TV and kids joining our school after the Iraqi invasion, their families moving to the nearby countries. I can vividly see a classmate telling me that when they eventually returned back to their house in Kuwait City, all had been plundered excerpt for the grand piano which evidently had been too heavy to carry away. And I thought of that sight, this magnificent creature marooned in an empty house which was once a home. I have often talked about my multiple homes, this yearning to be in one while living in another. I now recognise the privilege inherent in this yearning for I can return to any of these homes any time I wish. For many of the characters in this novel, the only way they can do that is through their memories and even memories can only stay for so long.