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House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East PDF, ePub eBook “Evocative and beautifully written, House of Stone . . . should be read by anyone who wishes to understand the agonies and hopes of the Middle East.” — Kai Bird, Pulitzer Prize–winning historian and author of Crossing Mandelbaum Gate “In rebuilding his family home in southern Lebanon, Shadid commits an extraordinarily generous act of restoration for his wounded land, and f “Evocative and beautifully written, House of Stone . . . should be read by anyone who wishes to understand the agonies and hopes of the Middle East.” — Kai Bird, Pulitzer Prize–winning historian and author of Crossing Mandelbaum Gate “In rebuilding his family home in southern Lebanon, Shadid commits an extraordinarily generous act of restoration for his wounded land, and for us all.” — Annia Ciezadlo, author of Day of Honey In spring 2011, Anthony Shadid was one of four New York Times reporters captured in Libya, cuffed and beaten, as that country was seized by revolution. When he was freed, he went home. Not to Boston or Beirut—where he lives— or to Oklahoma City, where his Lebanese-American family had settled and where he was raised. Instead, he returned to his great-grandfather’s estate, a house that, over three years earlier, Shadid had begun to rebuild. House of Stone is the story of a battle-scarred home and a war correspondent’s jostled spirit, and of how reconstructing the one came to fortify the other. In this poignant and resonant memoir, the author of the award-winning Night Draws Near creates a mosaic of past and present, tracing the house’s renewal alongside his family’s flight from Lebanon and resettlement in America. In the process, Shadid memorializes a lost world, documents the shifting Middle East, and provides profound insights into this volatile landscape. House of Stone is an unforgettable meditation on war, exile, rebirth, and the universal yearning for home.

30 review for House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East

  1. 5 out of 5

    Dave Cullen

    So much about this book to love. It's only the third book I've ever agreed to blurb. That tells you how much I loved it. My blurb (and I wrote it myself, and meant every word): “I was captivated, instantly, by Anthony Shadid’s lushly evocative prose. Crumbling Ottoman outposts, doomed pashas, and roving bandits feel immediate, familiar, and relevant. Lose yourself in these pages, where empires linger, grandparents wander, and a battered Lebanon beckons us home. Savor it all. If Márquez had explored So much about this book to love. It's only the third book I've ever agreed to blurb. That tells you how much I loved it. My blurb (and I wrote it myself, and meant every word): “I was captivated, instantly, by Anthony Shadid’s lushly evocative prose. Crumbling Ottoman outposts, doomed pashas, and roving bandits feel immediate, familiar, and relevant. Lose yourself in these pages, where empires linger, grandparents wander, and a battered Lebanon beckons us home. Savor it all. If Márquez had explored nonfiction, Macondo would feel as real as Marjayoun.” Reading it sometimes made me feel inadequate as a writer. I wish I could do some of the amazing things he does. Or maybe I wish I could do them so relentlessly. I tend to underline phrases I love, and the pages are covered in ink. Every other sentence leaps out at me. Hard to believe. Reading it sometimes made me feel inadequate as a writer. I wish I could do some of the amazing things he does. Or maybe I wish I could do them so relentlessly. I tend to underline phrases I love, and the pages are covered in ink. Every other sentence leaps out at me. Hard to believe anyone can be that consistent. Faulkner, Nabokov, Denis Johnson and William Lychak are the only ones who have matched Anthony's underline rate for me. Update, Feb 2013: A year later, I still think about this book, and the impact it had on me. Beautiful.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Catherine

    Shadid was a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, and his posthumous memoir has been promoted on several TV shows and web sites. I was really looking forward to delving into his book. I’m so sad to say that this was a slog from start to finish. The book is partially about the renovation of his ancestor’s home in Lebanon. That portion of the story was typical of so many others I’ve read, full of construction delays, eccentric characters, and discovering “home.” But there was nothing really unique. For Shadid was a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, and his posthumous memoir has been promoted on several TV shows and web sites. I was really looking forward to delving into his book. I’m so sad to say that this was a slog from start to finish. The book is partially about the renovation of his ancestor’s home in Lebanon. That portion of the story was typical of so many others I’ve read, full of construction delays, eccentric characters, and discovering “home.” But there was nothing really unique. For me, most of the characters, with only a few exceptions (Dr. Khairalla and perhaps—and I’m being generous—Abu Jean), just weren’t interesting enough to include. Another part of the story was not only his family’s history but also Middle Eastern history. Perhaps he should have stayed strictly to his family’s history. The history, while informative, strayed a bit from the book being a personal memoir. I kept thinking as days passed and I still hadn’t finished the book that perhaps the author was just too close to the material, unable to edit himself in a way that made the stories more intriguing. He thanked his editor at the end of the book. But I have to say that had the editor done a better job of actually editing the text, taking out unnecessary overly worded descriptions, perhaps the book would have read more like a heartfelt, soulful reflection of the author’s memories. Instead there seemed to be too much fretting over the writing. Words can be beautiful and descriptive and lovely, but in this case, for me, it became too much of a good thing. The Epilogue was the best chapter by far. Had the entire book read like that section, I believe I would have enjoyed the book much more.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    As I read, I found myself falling into the rhythm of this book--the stumbling attempt to rebuild an old house, the current state of Lebanon and surrounding countries, and the history of the Levant and how the open, multicultural area became a political firestorm. I found the history and current information fascinating as I really had only a superficial understanding of the historical events and little understanding of their impact on the people who lived there, people of such diverse cultures, p As I read, I found myself falling into the rhythm of this book--the stumbling attempt to rebuild an old house, the current state of Lebanon and surrounding countries, and the history of the Levant and how the open, multicultural area became a political firestorm. I found the history and current information fascinating as I really had only a superficial understanding of the historical events and little understanding of their impact on the people who lived there, people of such diverse cultures, prior to reading this book. I also enjoyed seeing Shadid try to work with people who sometimes viewed him as the "rich American" or powerful newspaperman when he appears more to be a man running from his personal ghosts. Lebanon in this new millennium still suffers from the many problems that began in the early 20th century when British and French created artificial territories in what had been an open multicultural trading area for hundreds of years. This was an outgrowth of the fall of the Ottoman Empire. Lebanon became one of these new "countries". Shadid's family hailed from Marjayoun, what had a formerly been an important town. These new borders altered so much. His quest becomes to rebuild his great-great-grandfather's home and along the way he teaches us about his family, and Lebanon, then and now. "My aunts and uncles, grandparents and great grandparents were part of a century-long wave of migration that occurred as the Ottoman Empire crumbled then fell, around the time of World War I. In the hinterland of what was was then part of Greater Syria...the war marked years of violent anarchy that made bloodshed casual. Disease was rife. So was famine, created by the British and French, who enforced a blockade of all Arab ports in the Mediterranean. Hundreds of thousands starved to death in Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, and beyond." (loc 114) Shadid is returning to the ancestral home from which his family, all but the great great grandfather Isber and his wife, had left. The complexity of the terrain is obvious from his description of the area. "Marjayoun is set on a plateau of muted and melded grays browns, and greens, blended in harmony with the land's past. ..Beyond the town's entrance is the Hula Valley, in present day Israel, where the finer families once kept prosperous estates. To the west of the town, over a ridge, the Litani river flows, ...On the other side are Mount Hermon and its peaks, which serve as borders of Israel and Syria. Beyond it are the Golan Heights". (loc 684) In the process of rebuilding his ancestor's home, Shadid learns much about his town, the people, the culture, on a deeper level---or so it appears to this reader. And as a reader, I learned much more about the Middle East. I will finish with one final quote about Lebanon. "This is a nation in recovery from losses that cannot be remembered or articulated, but which are everywhere---in the head, behind the eyes, in the tears and footsteps and words...We have lost the splendors our ancestors created, and we go elsewhere. People are reminded of that every day here, where an older world, still visible on every corner, fails to hide its superior ways." (loc 1232) I recommend this highly as a memoir of one man's personal mission and as a history of the complicated Middle East.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Marcy prager

    Anthony Shadid was a winner of the Pulitzer Prize, and with every page I read of this novel, he deserved this coveted prize. Anthony's great grandfather, Isber, left war-torn Lebanon with his family to live in America, where he could secure their future, "where his children could realize their ambitions and create their own families without the distractions of fear and conflict." In better times in Marjayoun, Isber had built a magnificent "house of stone," done in the Levant style when life was Anthony Shadid was a winner of the Pulitzer Prize, and with every page I read of this novel, he deserved this coveted prize. Anthony's great grandfather, Isber, left war-torn Lebanon with his family to live in America, where he could secure their future, "where his children could realize their ambitions and create their own families without the distractions of fear and conflict." In better times in Marjayoun, Isber had built a magnificent "house of stone," done in the Levant style when life was tolerant, and "more indulgent" in the Middle East. Isber's homeland "was, in essence, an amalgamation of diversities where many mingled, a realm of intersections, a crossroads of language, culture, religions, and traditions. All were welcome to pass through the territories and homelands within its landscape, where differences were often celebrated. In idea at least, the Levant was open-minded, cosmopolitan; it did not concern itself with particularities or narrow definitions or identities." The era after the Ottoman rule, lands were split up, and war ensued. "Two codes of justice, old imperial and new colonial, clashed and confused. Economies changed, currencies multiplied in the wake of the Ottoman Empire's collapse. First came the Egyptian pound, pegged to the British sterling, then the Syrian pound, fixed to the French franc. Sectarianism and nationalism, the dangerous kinds, reared their heads in spectacles of horror and cruelty." Isber's Lebanon "was perched before an abyss, more unpredictable than the Great War, and nothing, not France, not Arab leaders, not the British army across the border, not the potentates of the old order- could pull it back." Anthony grew up in Oklahoma. He became a war correspondent and had covered three years of war in Iraq and Baghdad. His wife, "obsessed with the lethal aspects" of Anthony's career, divorced him. Tired of war and the stress of his life, Anthony had one desire, to return to his roots and transform Isber's war-torn home "to one of grace." The community of eccentric people Anthony befriends and hires to rebuild "the house of stone" in his great-grandfather's home town bring tears to the readers' eye, mostly with laughter, and sometimes great sadness. Anthony listens endlessly to friends who hold grudges, and continue their feuds. He hires a list of characters to rebuild his great-grandfather's home - drinkers, smokers of cigarettes and pot, war-wounded, and Jean Abu, the elderly, indolent "leader" of the workers who smokes and drinks coffee all day, who actually never works on the house. The work on the house is always delayed. Workers do not show as promised, and Jean Abu's reaction to Anthony's pleading is "If this person doesn't come, if that person doesn't come, what am I supposed to do? Should I pull them by their ear, drag them, and make them work? Should I ask God to invite him over? Should I bring God from heaven and make him bring this guy here?" Meanwhile, Anthony becomes obsessed with buying the Cemento tiles of the past, with the purpose to lay them in patterns on portions of each room's floor, to lift his great-grandfather's history, and bring back a bygone era. Anthony was in search of his identity, and influence of what Marjayoun used to represent during the height of the Ottoman empire. His great-grandfather's story rivals his own. Both stories captured my attention and my heart. I was saddened to learn that Anthony Shadid lost his life before this book was published at age 43. Another writer wrote, "Knowing that Shadid lost his life shortly before this book was published makes each piece of tile he polished, each plant he nurtured, feel all the more significant. It also raises the quiestion: Who will watch the house now that this exceptional man is gone?"

  5. 4 out of 5

    Marieke

    I liked this book more and more as I read, but also felt sadder and sadder with Anthony Shadid's death in the back of my mind. Maybe Dr. Khairallah is teaching him how to care for bonsai now, somewhere in an alternate dimension. Or something... Here on Earth in the living realm, I found the predictions of the syrian conflict scattered about in the book quite unsettling. On a less morbid note, I really enjoyed reading about his family coming to America and creating their life here. I have an even I liked this book more and more as I read, but also felt sadder and sadder with Anthony Shadid's death in the back of my mind. Maybe Dr. Khairallah is teaching him how to care for bonsai now, somewhere in an alternate dimension. Or something... Here on Earth in the living realm, I found the predictions of the syrian conflict scattered about in the book quite unsettling. On a less morbid note, I really enjoyed reading about his family coming to America and creating their life here. I have an even deeper appreciation now for the immigrant experience here. Not to politicize things too much, but I do hope that those people in the US who are profoundly anti-immigrant take time to look back at their own families' histories...Anthony Shadid was a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist; his grandmother crossed the Mexican border illegally after her uncle, with whom she was coming to America, was rejected at Ellis Island because of an eye infection. I thought that was quite interesting. Those are my thoughts for now...maybe I'll come back to this.

  6. 4 out of 5

    رولا البلبيسي Rula Bilbeisi

    “Empires fall. Nations topple. Boarders may shift or be realigned. Old loyalties may dissolve or, without warning, be altered. Home, whether it be structure or familiar ground is, finally, the identity that does not fade.” With such a profound introduction, the story begins. His poetic words and sincere emotions captivated my attention in the beginning, especially when describing how home “bayt” is perceived here, in the Middle East. I quote: “A house was a display of pride and in time it would b “Empires fall. Nations topple. Boarders may shift or be realigned. Old loyalties may dissolve or, without warning, be altered. Home, whether it be structure or familiar ground is, finally, the identity that does not fade.” With such a profound introduction, the story begins. His poetic words and sincere emotions captivated my attention in the beginning, especially when describing how home “bayt” is perceived here, in the Middle East. I quote: “A house was a display of pride and in time it would become a refuge, and finally a memory”. However, in following chapters, detailed description of the renovation made me struggle to go on. Tile after tile, stone after stone, pipes and paint, that was too much to go through. As chapters followed, it was like a rollercoaster ride. I was very involved once he starts talking about the immigration of his ancestors to the states, which reminded me of an Arabic novel called “America” that also described in length the Lebanese immigration and life in the states. Then back to the house and its tiles and windows, which was to me very boring. I really wanted to know more about him, Anthony the man, who was absent in this story, so was his experiences in war zone areas like Iraq and the west bank, or more interesting the time he was held captive in Libya. I was so sorry to know that he actually died before enjoying his Bayt (home). However, his ashes were spread between the olive trees he planted, covered with his favorite tiles. As if he renovated the house for that reason. In the end, he found his way back home.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Rob Warner

    As we age, our hearts eventually turn to our fathers, and we try to understand those who went before, what they were like, how they faced life, what challenges they overcame, and we gauge whether we measure up to our ancestors. House of Stone chronicles Shadid's return to his roots as he tries to restore the family home in Marjayoun, Lebanon, and also tries to understand his ancestors and his homeland. His quest evokes admiration for Shadid's family, sorrow for the tragedies they faced, and thou As we age, our hearts eventually turn to our fathers, and we try to understand those who went before, what they were like, how they faced life, what challenges they overcame, and we gauge whether we measure up to our ancestors. House of Stone chronicles Shadid's return to his roots as he tries to restore the family home in Marjayoun, Lebanon, and also tries to understand his ancestors and his homeland. His quest evokes admiration for Shadid's family, sorrow for the tragedies they faced, and thoughts to return to one's own roots. As I read, I marveled at the wars and strife that pervade Shadid's homeland, which stem from the intolerance people have for others' beliefs. In the United States we deplore such violence and intolerance, believing ourselves much more tolerant and open to others. If we honestly look at ourselves, however, we find that we are becoming much less tolerant, much more judgmental, and much less able to acknowledge that others' world views have us much validity as our own. We avoid bloodshed over religion and politics only because we avoid discussing them, but we avoid them less and less and clash more and more. Shadid helps us understand what we are becoming. Knowing that Shadid has passed away brought melancholy as I read. I went to high school with Shadid and have seen his passion, and I felt his pain as he discussed his broken marriage and agonized over his faulty fatherhood. I loved learning about his family history as he made his ancestors come alive. I would love to see the home he restored, and applaud him for making that happen.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    I really wanted to read this book when I saw that article about Shadid's death in Syria from an asthma attack. It finally came in at the library, and I started to read it with enthusiasm. Unfortunately, that enthusiasm quickly turned to disappointment as I felt that it became a chore to read. I can honestly only think of one book that I have had such a hard time reading that I did not finish, and it was by a religious zealot that was trying to preach through a series of disjointed stories. While I really wanted to read this book when I saw that article about Shadid's death in Syria from an asthma attack. It finally came in at the library, and I started to read it with enthusiasm. Unfortunately, that enthusiasm quickly turned to disappointment as I felt that it became a chore to read. I can honestly only think of one book that I have had such a hard time reading that I did not finish, and it was by a religious zealot that was trying to preach through a series of disjointed stories. While Shadid had a continuous train of thought and a purpose to his book, I just could not get into it. It's a shame, really, because I enjoyed his reporting and had seen reviews of this book about how it was personal and moving and blah blah blah blah. Instead I found it plodding and slow and you needed a chart to keep track of the cast of characters. I made it through 40% of this book in three weeks (compared to my normal speed of finishing a book like this in 2-3 days) and honestly was a bit relieved when the library loan ended and I could no longer access the book on my Kindle. I'm sorry, but while I wish the family and followers of Shadid well and will miss his contributions, I just couldn't get behind House of Stone.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kkraemer

    After a bad patch in his life, Anthony Shadid took a year off to rebuild his grandparents' home in Lebanon. Raised in Oklahoma City, he was more than knowledgeable about the wars and conflicts that had plagued the area, and he wanted to get a sense of its history beyond these travesties, a sense of the real people, the real geography, the family to which he belonged. The story of his year, then, is rife with descriptions of his friends and the people who come to work on this house, and of their After a bad patch in his life, Anthony Shadid took a year off to rebuild his grandparents' home in Lebanon. Raised in Oklahoma City, he was more than knowledgeable about the wars and conflicts that had plagued the area, and he wanted to get a sense of its history beyond these travesties, a sense of the real people, the real geography, the family to which he belonged. The story of his year, then, is rife with descriptions of his friends and the people who come to work on this house, and of their particular perspectives on the world. The story also tells of the grandfather who built the house as a testament to his own success and power, and of the fact that this grandfather sadly came to the understanding that his children had to leave not only the house but the country if they were to thrive. It's the story of his grandmother, too, who lived in the house until her 90's, a presence he feels in every stone and every tile. The stones of Marjayoun bear scars and witness to the people of this place and their ongoing position as a point of crossfire between Europe and the Middle East; Muslim, Christian, and Jew; and families who have bickered for generations. The stones are deep and beautiful, if a bit irregular... Along the way, Shadid reflects on the Arabic language and culture, on the history of an area torn by strife and rich in tradition, and on the central importance of olives, almonds, and citrus in any garden, any gathering, any good society. Because Shadid is, at once, an outsider and an insider, he offers windows into Marjayoun that would be blocked to anyone else. Because he is both a deeply reflective man and an excellent writer, he offers insights unequaled by anything else I've read.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    Generally, I avoid memoirs, but since this book was up for the National Book Award, I decided to read it. I am so glad I did. Shadid combines the story of rebuilding his families' hundred year old home in Lebanon, which had been hit by a rocket, with his own story and that of his extended family. The story of rebuilding the house is captivating in itself. Anyone who has ever built a home or taken on a renovation project can relate to all the difficulities that Shadid experiences with finding and Generally, I avoid memoirs, but since this book was up for the National Book Award, I decided to read it. I am so glad I did. Shadid combines the story of rebuilding his families' hundred year old home in Lebanon, which had been hit by a rocket, with his own story and that of his extended family. The story of rebuilding the house is captivating in itself. Anyone who has ever built a home or taken on a renovation project can relate to all the difficulities that Shadid experiences with finding and affording appropriate materials and reliable and skilled workmen. However, because although he speaks Arabic, he is not at home in the land of his grandfathers, so his problems are much more difficult than running off to Home Depot or using the Yellow Pages. He also brings to life many of the people he meets in the town of Marjhoun. Abu Jean the general contractor who old,irrascible, very much in charge, but in the end reliable. Dr. Khairalla, the intellectual, who is a skilled gardener,and maker of stringed instruments. The stories of Shadid's ancestors weave through out the book. The danger of war is present through out the span of time discussed in the book. Readers watch the past flow by as Shadid's grandparents send their children away to safety and opportunity in the United States. The book is the story of these immigrants success in the United States to become doctors, lawyers, and a grandson a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist. Almost finished with the book, I became curious about what Shadid was doing now, so I googled him only to find that he died in February 2012 at the age of 43 from an asthema attack. Knowing this made all the parts of the book where he addresses his young daughter about his hopes for her and his reasons for rebuilding the house more important. I learned that he remarried and had an infant son at the time of his death. At least, these children can come to know their father through this book. I was sadden to learn that we as readers had lost this talented writer with a sense of what is important in life. I plan to read one of his other books Night Draws Near. House of Stone is a wonderful read.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Swapp

    Most of this book I read beside a computer, accessing wikipedia and trek earth websites often to better understand the history of lebanon and the Levant, as well as to visualize the descriptive flowers, plants and architecture and countryside that Shadid wonderfully elicited. It as noteworthy that Shadid's storyline was based on his great grandfather and great grandmother who sent their children to America to protect them from the destruction on war in Lebanon- a sacrifice they were willing to m Most of this book I read beside a computer, accessing wikipedia and trek earth websites often to better understand the history of lebanon and the Levant, as well as to visualize the descriptive flowers, plants and architecture and countryside that Shadid wonderfully elicited. It as noteworthy that Shadid's storyline was based on his great grandfather and great grandmother who sent their children to America to protect them from the destruction on war in Lebanon- a sacrifice they were willing to make- a sacrifice that portrayed the great love of Marjayoun, Lebanon- part of their Bayt, and the great love of their family and their desire to protect them- the other part of Bayt. Shadid in his own way mirrored his great grandfather, as he tried to balance the great love of his wife and children, and the great connection to the middle east through journalism. He had to make sacrifices to time with his family in order to continue his journalism and also to work on the reconstruction of his house. His untimely death has lead many to question his commitment to journalism in such a dangerous region of the world. I loved the history lesson of the middle east. I loved the humorous storyline of the small town experts working to rebuild his house. I also enjoyed the lebanese american immigrant's experience. The imagery of the rebirth of olive trees, the replanting of the passiflora vines, the commitment to the 100 year process of taming a bonsai tree and symbolized the patience and hope in an area often destroyed by wars; the love of a people who would continue to develop beauty in the hope that it will one day remain.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Amalia

    Disclaimer: Anthony was a middle school classmate in Oklahoma. He was a nice guy as an 8th grader, and I was delighted to find that he lost none of that "nice guy" over his lifetime. Nice teenagers are a special commodity. I read early things about this book during the winter and already had my heart set on reading it. When Anthony died in February, that motivated me to get my hands on it as quickly as I could (and I was at Kings English to get a copy the day it was released). I was not disappoin Disclaimer: Anthony was a middle school classmate in Oklahoma. He was a nice guy as an 8th grader, and I was delighted to find that he lost none of that "nice guy" over his lifetime. Nice teenagers are a special commodity. I read early things about this book during the winter and already had my heart set on reading it. When Anthony died in February, that motivated me to get my hands on it as quickly as I could (and I was at Kings English to get a copy the day it was released). I was not disappointed. Anthony masterfully intertwines his own family history in now-Lebanon and Oklahoma with the rebuilding of his grandfather's house. I may have learned more Oklahoma history from House of Stone than I did in a whole semester during 8th grade. Most importantly, Anthony's love that he develops for this place- and the love that he has for his family- are core themes that simply cannot be missed by the reader. It's also almost impossible to not share his palpable sadness at the culture that is being slowly destroyed in the area of his family's ancestral home. My simple recommendation: Read it. The loss of Anthony's voice from the world of journalism and prose is an immeasurable loss, so I hope you'll also take time to savor the story. It's worth it.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Florence

    Anthony Shadid returned to his ancestral home in a Lebanese village, finding it in ruins as the result of war and neglect. He spent a year restoring the home to its former glory and reminiscing about the history of his family and of the Middle East. The area that is now Lebanon was part of the Ottoman Empire. After the First World War when victorious European powers took control of the area, new borders were drawn, cutting off access to Syria and what is now Israel. The imagined past is bittersw Anthony Shadid returned to his ancestral home in a Lebanese village, finding it in ruins as the result of war and neglect. He spent a year restoring the home to its former glory and reminiscing about the history of his family and of the Middle East. The area that is now Lebanon was part of the Ottoman Empire. After the First World War when victorious European powers took control of the area, new borders were drawn, cutting off access to Syria and what is now Israel. The imagined past is bittersweet. War seems to be an endless occurence in Lebanon. The present is frustrating as Shadid struggles with workmen possessing very little work ethic engaged in laying tile and marble in the old house. There were some satisfying friendships, a few good meals, and the pleasure of restoring what Shadid hoped would be a family sanctuary. Unfortunately, Anthony Shadid died in Syria in 2012, shortly after the book was published. The book would have been more enjoyable if it had included some maps, a few photographs, and a glossary of Arab terms.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Emi Bevacqua

    This is the first Anthony Shadid I've read and he came across as rather guarded. He's much more generous in his descriptions of the foibles and weaknesses of all his ancestors, neighbors and contractors. I did learn a good bit about Lebanon's history, and the country's identity within complicated constructs of cultures and politics (Christian, Muslim, Arab, Maronite, Druze, Levant...). The story is about an American journalist who gets divorced and takes a leave of absence from the Washington Po This is the first Anthony Shadid I've read and he came across as rather guarded. He's much more generous in his descriptions of the foibles and weaknesses of all his ancestors, neighbors and contractors. I did learn a good bit about Lebanon's history, and the country's identity within complicated constructs of cultures and politics (Christian, Muslim, Arab, Maronite, Druze, Levant...). The story is about an American journalist who gets divorced and takes a leave of absence from the Washington Post to travel to his ancestral home in Lebanon, to rebuild the ruined wreckage in to a beautiful home for its founders' great-great-grand-daughter hopefully. The project takes nearly three years. But I want to know what happened to his ex-wife the doctor, and how his daughter Laila gets along with his new wife and their son, I want to know that everybody is okay since Anthony Shadid died leaving Syria (of an asthma attack), prompting the early release of this book. I guess I'm just nosy.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Hazel

    This book is told in two concurrent parts: Anthony Shadid's family history as shaped by the Levant and the emigration to America, and his restoration of his family's home in Lebanon, also in the context of the disappearance of the Levant and the rise of the troubles of the Middle East. I enjoyed the story of his family more than the repetition and trials of the difficulties of renovation. I appreciated the importance of the restoration to him and the arc of the story, but it needed further editi This book is told in two concurrent parts: Anthony Shadid's family history as shaped by the Levant and the emigration to America, and his restoration of his family's home in Lebanon, also in the context of the disappearance of the Levant and the rise of the troubles of the Middle East. I enjoyed the story of his family more than the repetition and trials of the difficulties of renovation. I appreciated the importance of the restoration to him and the arc of the story, but it needed further editing. This book is most important now as a testament the the loss and absence of this remarkable reporter, so young in his years. There is a creepy foreshadowing in his restoration: he was warned not to plant the cypress trees so close to his home, they were trees meant for a cemetery: doing so meant an early death.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    Solid, unprepossessing memoir written by someone with both intimate knowledge of and analytical rigor for the region. The memoir's publication timing, combined with references he makes throughout to Marjayoun as a town where people come to be buried, lend a sense of eeriness given his untimely death last month.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Missistnbl

    rest in peace shadid. and thank you for this sweet ride with a sour taste to your wonderful village Marjayoun. I enjoyed every part of it.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Dave

    Yeah, a solid three star slog.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Michele Weiner

    Anthony Shadid has written about restoring his identity by means of restoring his great-grandfather's stone house in a Lebanese viillage called Jedeidet Marjayoun. He writes in a lyrical way, shifting back and forth between eras so frequently that it creates some confusion, at least it did for me. There are at least three intertwined tales; Bayt, meaning 'home' in Arabic, which refers not only to the physical, but also to the feelings of security and belonging that come with; the history of Leba Anthony Shadid has written about restoring his identity by means of restoring his great-grandfather's stone house in a Lebanese viillage called Jedeidet Marjayoun. He writes in a lyrical way, shifting back and forth between eras so frequently that it creates some confusion, at least it did for me. There are at least three intertwined tales; Bayt, meaning 'home' in Arabic, which refers not only to the physical, but also to the feelings of security and belonging that come with; the history of Lebanon; and the personal histories of the Samara and Shadid families in the Jedeidet Marjayoun and in America. Shadid describes his good friends in Lebanon in some detail, illustrating their world views and demonstrating why peace in the Middle East is not always a macro issue, but sometimes a micro issue about values and cultural differences. When discussing Lebanese history, Shadid puts much emphasis on the post World War I redrawing of boundaries in the Middle East that complicated the nomadic career of his great-grandfather and others who roamed the area from the Houran in Syria to the cities of Palestine in their search for business and wealth. His argument here is that the drawing of borders took away the life his great-grandfather and others enjoyed for hundreds of years, separating them from old ways and old friends. There is heavy emphasis on the sins of the French, who were given Lebanon to administer, and, of course, on the Israelis. After the Ottoman Empire, which was not a benign regime, fell at then end of the First World War, many Lebanese wanted to try self rule, but before long, they fell into sectarian violence based on religious affiliation that continues to this day. It is difficult to see how they could have ended up at a different place, whether the French came between or they were left alone to make their own decisions. When it comes to the Shadid and Samara families, the barrage of names can be defeating to Americans. Nabeeh, Nabiha, Majib, Ratiba, Bahija and more. It was hard to keep track and equally difficult to separate Shadid from Samara at times. But the story itself, of a family who chose to separate in order to avoid the violence in Lebanon, was affecting. They worked hard, and became wealthy the old fashioned way. Shadid's writing style contributed to the reader's confusion as he jumped back and forth from time to time and person to person. The story never came to the reader in a straight line, but as a series of loops. There was a lot of repetition of facts, theories and events some of it necessary because one hadn't seen the character for several chapters and may have forgotten salient points. The writing was beautiful, though, and I imagine its lyrical nature was due to Shadid's desire to communicate the Lebanese/Bedouin/Christian nature that his Samara family inherited. This book was made more poignant by the fact of Shadid's early death of asthma while walking through the desert behind a horse. He threw himself into dangerous situations repeatedly, and had previously been shot, kidnapped and beaten in pursuit of the story. He neglected his family and lost his first marriage. He never felt completely at home in American culture or Marjayoun. He agonized about being a better family man while running away from family. He was warm, generous, caring and had a bad temper and difficulty making choices. He smoked too much and missed his family when he was working and his job when he was with family, always guilty that he was in the wrong place. His reporting was without peer, however, and the consensus is that he gave Americans a view of the Arab world that they would not otherwise have had. I hope he felt more at peace after his remarriage and the birth of his second child, a son. It's a worthwhile book, though I suspect you might begin to skim some of it!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Natalie

    It's important to put a face on history. This promises to be a good book from the first page. For a page turning story with beautiful words, dry sage humor, a culture/history memoir, and for thought provoking reading. A good book makes you want to read more. This is one of those. I thought it would be more about Anthony Shadid, the man. He actually concentrates on making a visual picture of the place, the people, the culture through stories and encounters. And through in large part centered aroun It's important to put a face on history. This promises to be a good book from the first page. For a page turning story with beautiful words, dry sage humor, a culture/history memoir, and for thought provoking reading. A good book makes you want to read more. This is one of those. I thought it would be more about Anthony Shadid, the man. He actually concentrates on making a visual picture of the place, the people, the culture through stories and encounters. And through in large part centered around the house of is Great Grandfather as he tries to rebuild it. Making it the symbol of his looking back into his family and the countries past history. You can miss this symbol. I was worried this wouldn't be a good book because some reviewed it as being too much about the details of his house building, which was boring to them. He does some reminiscing on himself a bit, but brushes over that to build up a family tree story in snippets. As I read it I thought it seemed like that was to replace his lack of building his own family and choosing his career. Regaining his lost possibilities through understanding where he came from, and what brought him to now. A lost place, drifting people,and a lost man. Reading this gives you a sense of living the aftermath of years of living through a war torn place. Which it is, and this man personally saw a lot of that in his reporting. Lots of pages to chew on. Not a quick surface read. There is introspection involved. So it's not directly about him, but afterward you realize the book is entirely about how he became who he was. Too bad he didn't live to write more. The reading is like the first chapter. The last chapter maybe would have been the next book. More about himself directly. Still, it made me realize how much I didn't know. Which makes it a good book. I want to read more to find out. I think it might be to shallow to take this book as his memoir. He remarried, had another child, went back to reporting. Now I think, after reading more about him (not enough, I'll read more,) that he's a very passionate knowledgeable man of the area(an understatement). With excellent writing skills. A really good understanding of people. It's not a superficial book or a simple man. He had grip on the convoluted turmoil of people's lives during war and past that. Now I want to read more about him and also the area. It's a shame he couldn't have lived and wrote more. I appreciated his perspective. I was too busy with family life during his reporting years to pay attention. My loss. This book makes me want to dig backward and see what I missed. I'm including these quotes from the New York times article about his death, because it shows through his poignant writing in this book: “He had such a profound and sophisticated understanding of the region,” Martin Baron, the editor of The Boston Globe, for whom Mr. Shadid worked during his tenure there, said in a telephone interview on Thursday. “More than anything, his effort to connect foreign coverage with real people on the ground, and to understand their lives, is what made his work so special. It wasn’t just a matter of diplomacy: it was a matter of people, and how their lives were so dramatically affected by world events.” "The Times nominated him, along with a team of his colleagues, for the 2012 Pulitzer in international reporting. (The awards are announced in April.) In its citation accompanying the nomination, The Times wrote: “Steeped in Arab political history but also in its culture, Shadid recognized early on that along with the despots, old habits of fear, passivity and despair were being toppled. He brought a poet’s voice, a deep empathy for the ordinary person and an unmatched authority to his passionate dispatches.” "

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    If you've been a student of the Middle East in the last decade, it's been almost impossible to avoid Anthony Shadid's extraordinary work. He reported the war in Iraq with an almost holy kind of insight and love for the people who suffered the onslaught of war. After Iraq, he wound up, among other places, in Libya, where he was detained by Qaddafi's security forces; after that, he was drawn to Syria, and that's where he died. A horrible loss, not just to his family and friends, but to the world, If you've been a student of the Middle East in the last decade, it's been almost impossible to avoid Anthony Shadid's extraordinary work. He reported the war in Iraq with an almost holy kind of insight and love for the people who suffered the onslaught of war. After Iraq, he wound up, among other places, in Libya, where he was detained by Qaddafi's security forces; after that, he was drawn to Syria, and that's where he died. A horrible loss, not just to his family and friends, but to the world, for he was truly a gifted reporter. Luckily for those most dear to him, he finished this book, House of Stone, before he died. The book tells two stories - of one his family's past, and one of his own imagined future, and the both center around a graceful home built in the tiny village of Marjayoun, Lebanon. Built by Shadid's maternal great-grandfather and long abandoned, the house becomes an avenue by which Shadid explores the intertwining issues of family, identity, religion, and hope. We see glimpses of a Levant that has long expired, an lamentations over that lost world. We also see a tentative and growing sense of finding one roots - and the chance to put down roots of one's own. What makes the story of regeneration so poignant, and what Shadid could not have known, of course, is that this book wasn't published until shortly after his untimely death. I read it with a heavy heart and a sense of loss and longing that, if it hadn't been summer vacation and my own life been so swell, certainly would have moved me to tears. One thing this book is not: a handbook to understanding the Middle East, except in the most roundabout and personal of ways. In other words, if you don't know your geography and basic history of Lebanon, you'll probably be a bit bewildered. It's also not an action packed narrative, or full of the violent tension that you might expect from a war reporter like Shadid. Instead, it's equal parts love song and lament. A powerful and elegiac work.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ann

    p. xi "The true Vienna lover lives on borrowed memories. With a bittersweet pang of nostalgia he remembers things he never knew. The Vienna that is, is as nice a town as ever there was. But the Vienna that never was is the grandest city ever." Orson Welles, Vienna (1968) p.xx "...the graceful slope of Arabic, leaning to the left, imposed on the rigidity of Latin, standing straight." " 'Your first discovery when you travel,' wrote Elizabeth Harwick, 'is that you do not exist.' In other words, it is n p. xi "The true Vienna lover lives on borrowed memories. With a bittersweet pang of nostalgia he remembers things he never knew. The Vienna that is, is as nice a town as ever there was. But the Vienna that never was is the grandest city ever." Orson Welles, Vienna (1968) p.xx "...the graceful slope of Arabic, leaning to the left, imposed on the rigidity of Latin, standing straight." " 'Your first discovery when you travel,' wrote Elizabeth Harwick, 'is that you do not exist.' In other words, it is not just the others who have been left behind; it is all of you that is known. Gone is the power or punishment of your family name, the hard-earned reputations of forebears, no longer familiar to anyone, not in this new place. Gone are those who understand how you became yourself. Gone are the reasons lurking in the past that might excuse your mistakes. Gone is everything beyond your name on the day of your arrival, and even that may ultimately be surrendered." p.23 "...he tosses sleeplessly most nights, enraging and then reenraging himself as he sorts through his pile of grudges, imagined slights, and never-ending quarrels. They are what he has to prove his life is going on. He lives in a ghost town that survives mainly in memory, but to him it is the world." p.26 "To be born in these parts is not only to know loss and rumination, but also to savor the endless pleasures of discord. It is to feel, and often feign, useful rage. Anger diverts attention; as a ruse it can blur the facts of a losing argument or disguise one's true motives. Theater, at the negotiating table or during a midmorning's market dustup, is part of the action. Family battles here are freighted."

  23. 4 out of 5

    Aramis

    I got the book after a heart-breaking interview with Nada, Shadid's widow. I'm happy I read it and knowing that Shadid had passed away, passages where he describes looking forward to living in the rebuilt house with his children are truly touching. I'm also conflicted about this book as some parts of it greatly annoyed me as well. On the one hand, the writing is beautiful, the characters are compelling, you feel a real sense of love and admiration for this part of Lebanon (and the Levant in gener I got the book after a heart-breaking interview with Nada, Shadid's widow. I'm happy I read it and knowing that Shadid had passed away, passages where he describes looking forward to living in the rebuilt house with his children are truly touching. I'm also conflicted about this book as some parts of it greatly annoyed me as well. On the one hand, the writing is beautiful, the characters are compelling, you feel a real sense of love and admiration for this part of Lebanon (and the Levant in general). The stories from his family's emigration are beautiful and compelling and work great intermingled with the stories of the rebuilding of his ancestral house (that are always funny and touching). On the other hand, it is terribly biased. For someone who doesn't know much of the region and its history (and I'm going to guess that's a majority of the readership), you'd think that what completely ruined Lebanon is Israel; not Syrian intervention, not the decades of civil war and sectarianism, not the fact that the whole south of the country is an enclave to itself that the government cannot control. I don't agree with many many things that Israel does. Israel faces its own traumas from its terribly misguided intervention in the Lebanese mess and has much to answer for, but Shadid keeps coming back to Palestine this and Palestine that again and again. Is this a book about Lebanon or about how bad Israel is? In the end, I think it's sad when a country has to look back to a totally corrupt Ottoman empire to define its 'golden age' of tolerance, as Shadid does. What kind of future does a country have when its people keep leaving or looking only back?

  24. 4 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    A reporter, a man whose family had moved to the states from Lebanon, a man who had seen many wars and been many places and a man who returns to Lebanon, to the village of his forebears and decides to repair the family home that had been neglected and war torn and was in need of extensive repair. His writing is the writing of a reporter, his strength was in writing of the many abuses of wars. Dead bodies, bombs, destroyed families and the little things found that have been left behind as a testam A reporter, a man whose family had moved to the states from Lebanon, a man who had seen many wars and been many places and a man who returns to Lebanon, to the village of his forebears and decides to repair the family home that had been neglected and war torn and was in need of extensive repair. His writing is the writing of a reporter, his strength was in writing of the many abuses of wars. Dead bodies, bombs, destroyed families and the little things found that have been left behind as a testament to what once was. I loved learning about his family and his background, I did not love that so much time was spent on his rebuilding of the house. Contract disputes, work stoppages, searching for equipment all were covered extensively to this readers dismay. Also I fear that he is incredibly biased in his treatment of Israel and I did not feel that this information was complete. There are usually always two sides to a story even if one side shoulders more of the blame. I did not know that the writer, shortly after completing this died of an asthma attack. I am glad that I read this, I did learn a bit about the culture and I have a daughter-in-law who is Lebanese that I look forward to discussing this book with.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mary Kooistra

    Sort of "a year in Province" - only a year in Lebanon...where this Pulitzer prize winning reporter - takes a year to restore a house that belonged to his great grandparents. I like books that help me imagine what it is like to live in other places and situations, and this does that. Really makes the point as to the effect of ongoing conflict on the lives of those caught in the middle. Also effectively points out that until the European powers became involved at the end of the Ottoman Empire - th Sort of "a year in Province" - only a year in Lebanon...where this Pulitzer prize winning reporter - takes a year to restore a house that belonged to his great grandparents. I like books that help me imagine what it is like to live in other places and situations, and this does that. Really makes the point as to the effect of ongoing conflict on the lives of those caught in the middle. Also effectively points out that until the European powers became involved at the end of the Ottoman Empire - this part of "Lebanon" - was really geographically connected with northern Israel and with Syria - artificial borders established by the Europeans have caused harm. Sad to know that the author died in Syria this spring - covering that conflict. Died of asthma due to his smoking and allergies to horses. He half-heartedly tries to quit smoking in the year this book covers - This book would be much more enjoyable and informative with MAPS - and with pictures of his ancestors. He spends time describing beloved photographs and the cover teases us with bits of photographs that may or may not be his family - actual photographs would have been wonderful.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    Anthony Shadid is a two-time Pulitzer Prize winning foreign correspondent. He died last year of an asthma attack while reporting in Syria for the New York Times. Shortly after, his third book, House of Stone was published. It’s clear by the first page of this memoir, that Shadid is an engaging and insightful writer with a keen sense of observation and extensive knowledge of the political strife which his family’s place of origin, Lebanon, has endured for many years. House of Stone interweaves Leb Anthony Shadid is a two-time Pulitzer Prize winning foreign correspondent. He died last year of an asthma attack while reporting in Syria for the New York Times. Shortly after, his third book, House of Stone was published. It’s clear by the first page of this memoir, that Shadid is an engaging and insightful writer with a keen sense of observation and extensive knowledge of the political strife which his family’s place of origin, Lebanon, has endured for many years. House of Stone interweaves Lebanon’s troubled history of wars, its effects on his ancestors, with his returning to his Grandfather’s home town to rebuild the old family home. The home had been hit by mortar during the first Israel-Lebanese war. The process of rebuilding his Grandfather’s home, as an “outsider” is filled with trials and tribulations. Shadid cultivates relationships, with his workers, contractor, and other colorful characters of the community, while negotiating the nuances of a vastly different culture. I could scarcely put this book down, Shadid’s narrations of historical and present day family and friends were so captivating.

  27. 4 out of 5

    David

    Given the poignancy of the author's death earlier this year, I really wanted to like this book; and indeed it evokes the lost character of the Levant with tenderness and beauty. Shadid tells the story of his attempt to rebuild "his" family home in Lebanon. I use quotes because Shadid's only connection to the home is multiple generations ago: the home belonged to a family patriarch from a lost era long before Shadid. With his hardcore vision of a rebuilt home, Shadid lets himself be thoroughly ca Given the poignancy of the author's death earlier this year, I really wanted to like this book; and indeed it evokes the lost character of the Levant with tenderness and beauty. Shadid tells the story of his attempt to rebuild "his" family home in Lebanon. I use quotes because Shadid's only connection to the home is multiple generations ago: the home belonged to a family patriarch from a lost era long before Shadid. With his hardcore vision of a rebuilt home, Shadid lets himself be thoroughly carried away by a past he never knew personally, a past he can only imagine. And that's basically how he loses me: Shadid is achingly unaware that life is available only in the present moment, and indeed frequently expresses guilt over recurring absences from his young daughter. (You do get a hunch why his first wife suddenly left him: it's hard to be present with an absent person.) While Shadid constantly imagines what his ancestors would think or do, and while he struggles against the odds of his fantastic dream to rebuild their forgotten homestead, the here and now (and any chance of living happily in it) are utterly missing.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Robert Palmer

    Shadid was born in Oklahoma ,USA of Lebanese -Christian decent in 1968 and won the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting twice. In 2006 he was covering Israel's attack on Lebanon when he heard that an Israeli rocket had crashed into the Ancestral home his Great Grandfather had built. This was a book I had heard about and very much wanted to read, however I could never relate or connect to any of the characters as the story moved ever so slowly . Most of the book was about his renovation of Shadid was born in Oklahoma ,USA of Lebanese -Christian decent in 1968 and won the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting twice. In 2006 he was covering Israel's attack on Lebanon when he heard that an Israeli rocket had crashed into the Ancestral home his Great Grandfather had built. This was a book I had heard about and very much wanted to read, however I could never relate or connect to any of the characters as the story moved ever so slowly . Most of the book was about his renovation of the Ancestral home which was OK except that that I have heard this same story from so many friends,neighbors and relatives about all the delays and how the job never gets finished on time,that I started to skip much of it. The best part of the book was the flashbacks of the family history which was printed in italics and is a history of the area ( Marjayoun ) at the time of the Ottoman Empire before Lebanon and Israel even existed. It is sad that Shadid died just a few months befor this book was published. One thing that I did not like was that Shadid assumes that the Israeli- Arab war was overreacting by Israel.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Linda Appelbaum

    I liked this book about a man returning to his family home in Lebanon to rebuild it and as he does so we learn of his family history and about Lebanon as well. There is always something beautiful and peaceful about returning to the past, even when that past is often destroyed by war and this author's story is even more poignant because he died shortly after finishing the book. This was an audio book for me and the reader was middle eastern and I very much appreciated his accent, which added so m I liked this book about a man returning to his family home in Lebanon to rebuild it and as he does so we learn of his family history and about Lebanon as well. There is always something beautiful and peaceful about returning to the past, even when that past is often destroyed by war and this author's story is even more poignant because he died shortly after finishing the book. This was an audio book for me and the reader was middle eastern and I very much appreciated his accent, which added so much to my enjoyment. Some of his book was somewhat disparaging towards Israel and since I am Jewish I found this hard to swallow but it drove home the fact that war is so unfair, touching people's lives who deserve only to just live in peace and go about their daily business. Always good to get a different perspective on situations, which this did for me. Now, we face a possible (remote) attack from N. Korea - but not all N. Koreans are bad. I would hope in the Middle East, there are those who do not think every American is bad.

  30. 5 out of 5

    marcus miller

    I plowed my way through this book. Maybe it was the self-pity the author admits to as he complains about the slow pace of rebuilding his ancestral house, his crumbling marriage, his relationship with his daughter, or the mess that is Lebanon, that made it difficult to read. At times I wondered if Shadid didn't try to do to much. In telling the history of Lebanon, the story of rebuilding the house, the emigration of his ancestors to Oklahoma and Texas, plus comments about his job, marriage, and h I plowed my way through this book. Maybe it was the self-pity the author admits to as he complains about the slow pace of rebuilding his ancestral house, his crumbling marriage, his relationship with his daughter, or the mess that is Lebanon, that made it difficult to read. At times I wondered if Shadid didn't try to do to much. In telling the history of Lebanon, the story of rebuilding the house, the emigration of his ancestors to Oklahoma and Texas, plus comments about his job, marriage, and his current state of mind, the story gets jumbled, chaotic, and messy, an apt metaphor for Lebanon, I suppose, but not particularly helpful in one book. It may not be fair, but I thought of Tracy Kidder's, House which told the story of its characters through the building process. I also thought of The Lemon Tree,, where Sandy Tolan focuses on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the story of one house. Both were more focused and interesting.

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