Anthony Shadid , House of Stone
A reporter’s eye and a son’s heart converge in war-torn Lebanon
It’s a little strange, hearing author Anthony Shadid graphically describe the toll a missile exacted on a Lebanese village in House of Stone — strange because one is immediately reminded that Shadid himself died suddenly and much too soon in the Middle East, though he couldn’t have known it as he wrote of victims choking on sand and dismembered corpses. Yet if death continually haunts House of Stone (as a veteran war correspondent, Shadid saw his share of it), the book relentlessly pursues the life that goes on in death’s stead and gives it meaning.
House of Stone‘s narrative concerns the reporter’s efforts to rebuild his great-grandfather’s house in Marjayoun, Lebanon, which was destroyed by an Israeli rocket in 2006. What comes of this effort is part national saga, part family history, and part tale of a stranger in a strange land. Shadid finds no shortage of amazement at the time and money he puts into a house that the Lebanese think should simply be destroyed. Suppliers cheat him, necessary parts prove difficult to find. He must clean human refuse out of the house’s water tanks. Interwoven with Shadid’s trials as he attempts to rebuild the house is an account of the histories of his family and their land, and it is here that House of Stone shines most brightly. It is almost as though Shadid, aware of how much of the story is not told by journalists like himself (“Television and the craft I practice show us the drama, not the impact,” he writes), now makes his best effort to fill in those spots. The result is a book that leverages Shadid’s keen reporter’s eye, complementing it with the emotion and in-depth engagement wrung from a family story. It is a tale of history with a heart, grounded in those familial bonds that we all have in common.