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Publisher's Summary

The Arsonists’ City delivers all the pleasures of a good old-fashioned saga, but in Alyan’s hands, one family’s tale becomes the story of a nation - Lebanon and Syria, yes, but also the United States. It’s the kind of book we are lucky to have.” (Rumaan Alam) 

A rich family story, a personal look at the legacy of war in the Middle East, and an indelible rendering of how we hold on to the people and places we call home

The Nasr family is spread across the globe - Beirut, Brooklyn, Austin, the California desert. A Syrian mother, a Lebanese father, and three American children: all have lived a life of migration. Still, they’ve always had their ancestral home in Beirut - a constant touchstone - and the complicated, messy family love that binds them. But following his father's recent death, Idris, the family's new patriarch, has decided to sell. 

The decision brings the family to Beirut, where everyone unites against Idris in a fight to save the house. They all have secrets - lost loves, bitter jealousies, abandoned passions, deep-set shame - that distance has helped smother. But in a city smoldering with the legacy of war, an ongoing flow of refugees, religious tension, and political protest, those secrets ignite, imperiling the fragile ties that hold this family together. 

In a novel teeming with wisdom, warmth, and characters born of remarkable human insight, award-winning author Hala Alyan shows us again that “fiction is often the best filter for the real world around us” (NPR).

©2021 Hala Alyan (P)2021 Recorded Books

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What listeners say about The Arsonists' City

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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Couldn’t finish it

I really wanted to like this book, but the descriptions about every little situation with each character felt never ending. I listened for hours and nothing had really happened, I didn’t get to the Beirut part. If you like a lot of description and stories with multiple characters and family dynamics you’ll enjoy it. The start was captivating and quick paced and beautifully written, but sadly my interest kept fading as the stories in the present moment kept dragging.

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All the feels

I loved this book. Having lived in Beirut, it felt true to me, like I'd met each of the characters before. It's a beautiful story of love, trauma, grief, family, and identity.