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The Return: Book summary and reviews of The Return by Hisham Matar

The Return

Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between

by Hisham Matar

The Return by Hisham Matar X
The Return by Hisham Matar
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  • Published Jul 2016
    256 pages
    Genre: Biography/Memoir

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Book Summary

From the author of In the Country of Men, a Man Booker Prize and National Book Critics Circle Award finalist, comes an extraordinary memoir of his journey home to his native Libya in search of the truth behind his father's disappearance.

When Hisham Matar was a nineteen-year-old university student in England, his father was kidnapped. One of the Qaddafi regime's most prominent opponents in exile, he was held in a secret prison in Libya. Hisham would never see him again. But he never gave up hope that his father might still be alive. "Hope," as he writes, "is cunning and persistent."

Twenty-two years later, after the fall of Qaddafi, the prison cells are empty and there is no sign of Jaballa Matar. Hisham returns with his mother and wife to the homeland he never thought he'd go back to again. The Return is the story of what he found there. It is at once an exquisite meditation on history, politics, and art, a brilliant portrait of a nation and a people on the cusp of change, and a disquieting depiction of the brutal legacy of absolute power. Above all, it is a universal tale of loss and love and of one family's life. Hisham Matar asks the harrowing question: How does one go on living in the face of a loved one's uncertain fate?

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Book Awards

  • award image Pulitzer Prize, 2017

Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. A beautifully written, harrowing story of a son's search for his father and how the impact of inexplicable loss can be unrelenting while the strength of family and cultural ties can ultimately sustain." - Kirkus

"What a brilliant book ... In chronicling his quest for his father, his manner is fastidious, even detached, but his anger is raw and unreconciled; through his narrative art he bodies out the shape of loss and gives a universality to his very particular experience of desolation" - Hilary Mantel

"The Return is a riveting book about love and hope, but it is also a moving meditation on grief and loss .... It is a quest for the truth in a dark time, constructed with a novelist's skill, written in tones that are both precise and passionate. It is likely to become a classic." - Colm Tóibín

"A triumph of art over tyranny, structurally thrilling, intensely moving, The Return is a treasure for the ages." - Peter Carey

"The Return is tremendously powerful. Although it filled me with rage again and again, I never lost sight of Matar's beautiful intelligence as he tried to get to the heart of the mystery. I am so very grateful he has written this book." - Nadeem Aslam

This information about The Return was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

Hisham Matar Author Biography

Photo: © Diana Matar

Hisham Matar was born in 1970 in New York City where his father, Jaballa Matar,  worked for the Libyan delegation to the United Nations.  When he was three years old, his family returned to Tripoli, Libya where he spent his early childhood until political persecution forced his mother to flee with the children first to Kenya and then to Egypt, where they settled in Cairo and Hisham and his brother Ziad attended a school with 70 pupils per classroom (the only school they could afford). Later, Hisham's father managed to get out of Libya and join them. 

In Cairo, Hisham's father began his political work in earnest: writing against the Libyan regime and mobilizing the various factions of the exiled Libyan resistance to unite in order to overthrow the regime...

... Full Biography
Author Interview

Name Pronunciation
Hisham Matar: ma-TARR

Other books by Hisham Matar at BookBrowse
  • In the Country of Men jacket
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