A very good book, and an important, eye-opening one too.
After the death of her beloved father, imaginative 11-year-old Nour leaves New York City, where she was born, and returns home with her cartographer mother and two older sisters to the family's native Syria, where bombs released by Assad's forces soon destroy their home and send them on a desperate flight across North Africa. More than 800 years earlier, Rawiya, the daughter of an impoverished widow, disguises herself as a boy and leaves medieval Ceuta-modern Spain's foothold on the African coast-and apprentices herself to a mapmaker, traveling with him throughout the Levant. The stories are deftly interwoven, for Nour's father has told her about Rawiya's fabulous, sometimes mythic adventures. Parallels abound, from the spunky, triumphant heroines to mapmaking as a key to finding oneself to the special stone Nour hunts, once the eye of a terrifying winged creature battled by Rawiya. Debut novelist Joukhadar gracefully balances the gritty, often horrific truth of the refugee's plight with the lyrical near-fairy tale she has created (in both time periods), layered with burnished hope and occasionally overplayed sentiment. VERDICT A wise, vibrantly told story for a wide range of readers, particularly relevant now.
A gorgeous and timely story
A spellbinding geography of family and hope.
In this beautifully nuanced debut novel from Syrian American author, Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar, two parallel journeys alternate with and counter each other, highlighting the connections between the vital importance of the stories we tell and the psycho-geography of maps.
The interweaving of the two stories is skilfully done... Joukhadar can be congratulated on an unusual first novel.
Scheherazade's "The Thousand and One Nights" meets Alan Gratz's "Refugee" in this important debut novel ...There are parts that will make your heart stop and parts that will make it beat again. It's an incredible force.
This imaginative yet very real look into war-torn Syria is a must.
Full of tension and love and danger. This is a beautifully told, magical novel about journeys and finding your way home.
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.
Joukhadar's prose is like a dream, which is fitting for this pair of stories, one drawn from fantastical legend, the other from nightmarish current events from which Syria has yet to awaken.