"Time doesn't change; time reveals."
These words, uttered by family patriarch Idris Nasr, could not sum up this book any better.
The Arsonists' City follows the Nasr family, scattered across the globe in Beirut, Austin, Brooklyn, and the Californian desert, as they reluctantly reunite at the family home in Beirut. Idris wants to sell the house following the death of his father and no one takes kindly to his decision. His wife, Mazna, and their three children, Ava, Mimi, and Najla, unite against Idris, as family secrets, abandoned dreams, and lost loves bubble to the surface, threatening to destroy what remains of the fragile family bonds that still remain.
Alyan has written a deeply character-driven story, weaving between the past and present, unfolding through multiple points of view. It is a beautiful story with rich settings that leap at you off the page, making you feel immersed in the Nasr family world. I wish I knew more about the region so I could understand the history between the neighboring countries. Each of the characters has redeeming qualities but is deeply flawed. No matter how much each wants to put the past behind them, and no matter how much time has passed, what came before cannot be undone and has lead this family to their ancestral home and their origin.
I highly recommend this novel for anyone who wants a layered, nuanced story of a family that must heal itself together, no matter how much they might hurt each other in the process.
I received an ARC from BookishFirst and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All opinions are my own.