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The Map of Salt and Stars
by Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar


Overview - "This imaginative but very real look into war-torn Syria is a must." - Booklist (starred review)

This rich, moving, and lyrical debut novel is to Syria what The Kite Runner was to Afghanistan; the story of two girls living eight hundred years apart--a modern-day Syrian refugee seeking safety and a medieval adventurer apprenticed to a legendary mapmaker--places today's headlines in the sweep of history, where the pain of exile and the triumph of courage echo again and again.  Read more...


 
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More About The Map of Salt and Stars by Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar
 
 
 
Overview
"This imaginative but very real look into war-torn Syria is a must." -Booklist (starred review)

This rich, moving, and lyrical debut novel is to Syria what The Kite Runner was to Afghanistan; the story of two girls living eight hundred years apart--a modern-day Syrian refugee seeking safety and a medieval adventurer apprenticed to a legendary mapmaker--places today's headlines in the sweep of history, where the pain of exile and the triumph of courage echo again and again.

In the summer of 2011, just after Nour loses her father to cancer, her mother moves Nour and her sisters from New York City back to Syria to be closer to their family. In order to keep her father's spirit as she adjusts to her new home, Nour tells herself their favorite story--the tale of Rawiya, a twelfth-century girl who disguised herself as a boy in order to apprentice herself to a famous mapmaker.

But the Syria Nour's parents knew is changing, and it isn't long before the war reaches their quiet Homs neighborhood. When a stray shell destroys Nour's house and almost takes her life, she and her family are forced to choose: stay and risk more violence or flee across seven countries of the Middle East and North Africa in search of safety--along the very route Rawiya and her mapmaker took eight hundred years before in their quest to chart the world. As Nour's family decides to take the risk, their journey becomes more and more dangerous, until they face a choice that could mean the family will be separated forever.

Following alternating timelines and a pair of unforgettable heroines coming of age in perilous times, The Map of Salt and Stars is the epic story of one girl telling herself the legend of another and learning that, if you listen to your own voice, some things can never be lost.

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9781501169038
  • ISBN-10: 1501169033
  • Publisher: Touchstone Books
  • Publish Date: May 2018
  • Page Count: 368
  • Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.5 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds


Related Categories

Books > Fiction > Coming of Age
Books > Fiction > Literary
Books > Fiction > Fairy Tales, Folk Tales, Legends & Mythology

 
BookPage Reviews

Two lives, a thousand years apart

Among the many things the violence of war obliterates, perhaps the most malicious is history. Now in its seventh year, the civil war that has turned Syria into the site of one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises has also corseted one of the oldest societies on earth into a kind of perpetual infancy. Syria, it sometimes seems, only began to exist seven years ago, as a place defined only by its current calamity.

In many ways, The Map of Salt and Stars is at once a testament to the brutality of the current Syrian conflict and a reverent ode to ancient Arabian history. Syrian-American writer Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar has crafted an audacious debut, ambitious and sprawling in both time and space.

The book follows the story of Nour, a Syrian-American girl living in New York. In 2011, after Nour loses her father to cancer, her mother decides to move the family back to Homs to be close to their extended family. But Nour’s arrival coincides with Syria’s slide into civil war. Amid grotesque violence, Nour is made a refugee, a traveler through Syria’s neighboring lands.

Almost a thousand years earlier, another girl’s story unfolds. Rawiya, seeking a better life for her mother, disguises herself as a boy and joins a legendary cartographer on a quest to map the known world.

The two stories unfold side by side, split by time but joined by a common geography. Because the modern part of Joukhadar’s narrative carries the urgency of the present tense, but the ancient half reads like an old Arabian fairy tale, the dual story structure is at first jarring. But soon the book finds its pace, and the intertwining tales complement each other in ways a single narrative could not. A swooping bird of prey that threatens to devour the ancient story’s traveling companions finds its modern-day analogy in the form of Syrian fighter planes dropping bombs on besieged cities.

There is a heartfelt quality to the story, evident in the meticulous historical research that must have gone into the creation of the ancient part of the book. The Map of Salt and Stars presents an Arab world in full possession of its immense historical and cultural biography, marred by its modern tragedies but not exclusively defined by them.

 

This article was originally published in the May 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

 
BAM Customer Reviews