The Return - Fathers, Sons, and the Land in Between

Hisham Matar’s memoir came across my radar during the end of 2016, when publications were printing and promoting their best-of-year lists. The Middle East is a region about which I have read and learned plenty, but Libya has always been under-represented. After reading a short excerpt and finding myself impressed with his writing style – prose marked by economical word choice, sharp, incisive voice, and a high-minded, lyrical, literary quality – I jumped into the book.

I finished The Return quickly across two travel days, a perfect context given Matar’s own traveling plot devices throughout. While the action and plotting were gripping in and of themselves, I felt even more rewarded for the picture of Libya that Matar painted. Learning about his family, their intellectual and political work, their experiences dealing with Qadafi’s authoritarian regime and their time in prison, built for me a vision of Libya I’ve never found elsewhere. I imagine Hisham’s father would be proud of his son, if for no other reason, for how he has carried forward the intellectual tradition of his family and his country. So the world can see how much culture, tradition and beauty Libya and its sons and daughters contain.

I immediately recommended the book to other friends who I knew would find the writing to be of the highest quality, the story to be gripping, and the depiction of Libya and Matar’s family fascinating.