Every now and again there comes a book that fills you with Hope and makes you believe in humankind. Jennifer Zenyab Joukhandar’s Map of Salt and Stars is one such novel. A beautiful, lyrical debut novel that evokes much thought and discussion on the very serious issue of the Syrian Refugees and their displacement from their home. Begging the question - What is home?
A story told in first person from a 12 year’s old perspective. That is really not one but 2 stories woven together. One story is contemporary and the other is a mythological folk tale that takes place 800 years earlier. In the more contemporary story, Nour’s mother, a Syrian-American, a cartographer and painter of beautiful maps, decides to move Nour and her sisters from New York City back to Syria after the death of Nour’s father. The mother feels a strong desire to live closer to her family. After they arrive in Syria, they experience effects of the civil war evidenced by protests and shelling in their quiet neighborhood. When a shell destroys Nour’s home and neighborhood, she and her family and a close family friend of her father’s are forced to flee as refugees across seven countries of the Middle East and North Africa in search of safety.
The mythological folk tale which is a story within the story is a favorite folk tale that Nour’s father told her over and over again as a young girl.
Rawiya follows al-Idrisi on a journey across the Middle East and the north of Africa where they encounter a mythical beast and fight epic battles.
There are very strong connections between the two stories as Nour and her family are forced from their home to travel the identical route that Rawiya traveled eight hundred years earlier.
We all agreed that this was a beautifully written poignant book that had a feel good factor about it.