“That’s it. The most important places on a map are the places you’ve never been.”
There are some books you read and some you tumble headlong into. The Map of Salt and Stars is of the second variety – fit for getting lost in. Like a map you trace your fingers over again and again, it’s a book with texture.
Nour is a young girl bounced from tragedy to tragedy. After her father dies, her family moves from Manhattan back to a homeland she’s never known. To combat her deep feelings of diaspora and keep her father close, she begins to tell the story her father told her every night over and over. It’s the story of a young map-maker who travels through the same space Nour must travel in order to save herself and her family when tragedy strikes yet again, and serves as a kind of map itself – guiding Nour through everything she must endure.
Nour has a condition called synesthesia, which allows her to see sounds as colours. Joukhadar works the condition into the larger story seamlessly without making it feel over written. It provides another element of magic to a story already layered with it, as we see the deep, rich colours of a Syria trying to be both old and new at the same time.
The descriptions of everything from the feel of the cobblestones, to the textures of the cloth, and colours of the words that fill the air, set the backdrop for a beautiful story.
The book had the potential to get bogged down by all the language, but it doesn’t, instead feeling light and airy as it creates a rich and wonderful tale to travel through.