The Arsonists’ City is a sweeping generational family saga which follows a Lebanese father (Idris), a Syrian mother (Mazna) and their three American children (Ava, Mimi, and Naj). Told through alternating POVs, the story spans across time and space—from the 1960s to present day and bouncing between Syria, Lebanon and America. The Nasr siblings have drifted apart over the years but their father Idris’ decision to sell their ancestral home in Beirut brings the family together again. In the weeks that follow, the family’s carefully guarded secrets and resentments rise to the surface and threaten to tear them apart.
Right from the start, I fell under the spell of Alyan’s dazzling prose. She crafts relatable, fully realized characters who you can’t help but connect with. They are complex, flawed and some of the most memorable characters I’ve come across. The historical aspects of the story were enlightening and taught me a lot about Lebanon and Syria’s history, culture and politics. This is a remarkable character-driven story about generational trauma, the immigrant experience, and the extraordinary love of family. Lyrical and thought-provoking—this family and their story will stay with me for a long time.