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Publishers Weekly
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Shadid-a New York Times correspondent, Pulitzer Prize winner, and grandson of immigrants- took a leave of absence to renovate his ancestral home in Lebanon. Shadid's "quixotic mission" was a search for identity. His great-grandfather left the house to his family to "join us with the past, to sustain us." Shadid went in search of that past, claiming, "I understood questions of identity, how being torn in two often leaves something less than one." He writes sentimentally of Lebanon, but his confession that the house was "memories of what I had imagined over many years" reveal a constructed emotion. The sentimentality sometimes borders on maudlin, and his identity quest is often lost among mundane construction details. Shadid claims to understand the "desire of those whose place had been taken away." He is presumably referring to his divorce, but his home renovation doesn't convince as healing process. History buffs, however, will appreciate the family and Middle Eastern historical asides. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


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Shadid is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and the grandson of Lebanese immigrants. After reporting on various conflicts in the Middle East, he took an extended leave of absence to restore his family's ancestral home in Marjayoun, located in southern Lebanon. The effort was clearly an attempt to reconnect with or rediscover his family's past, and he uses the rebuilding of the home as a metaphor for that search. Shadid describes the town of Marjayoun in his great-grandfather's time in idyllic terms, where Christians and Muslims lived in relative harmony against a background of flourishing agriculture and physical beauty, dominated by the majestic peak of Mount Hermon. His memoir is well written and deeply felt, but his sentimentality sometimes seems over the top and his frequent jumps from past to present can be confusing. Still, this is an interesting and often emotionally stirring account of Shadid's search for a time and place that are irrevocably lost.--Freeman, Jay Copyright 2010 Booklist