Catherine's Reviews > House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East

House of Stone by Anthony Shadid
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Apr 06, 12

Read in April, 2012, read count: Once

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.
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