Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Return: Fathers, Sons, and the Land in Between” as Want to Read:
The Return: Fathers, Sons, and the Land in Between
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

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

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  4,399 Ratings  ·  540 Reviews
From Man Booker Prize and National Book Critics Circle Award finalist Hisham Matar, a memoir of his journey home to his native Libya in search of answers to his father's disappearance. In 2012, after the overthrow of Qaddafi, the acclaimed novelist Hisham Matar journeys to his native Libya after an absence of thirty years.     

When he was twelve, Matar and his family went
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published July 5th 2016 by Knopf Canada (first published June 2016)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Return, please sign up.
Recent Questions
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
Diane S ☔
Jul 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
In the United States, I first heard of the overthrow of Qaddafi on our nightly news, just pieces here and there, atrocities committed by the regime just lightly touched on. So this book was very eye opening to me, the details were anguishing to read. First book I have read about Libya, or even set in Libya.
The author's father was a very successful businessman, quite wealthy and against the Qaddafi regime, he put his money into the overthrow of this corrupt and abusive government as he and extend
There are several reasons to choose this book:

-beautiful prose.
-thoughtful, philosophical content about a son's relationship to an absent father.
-a memoir that illustrates how political events shape the lives of a nation's people.
-details about life under the Libyan dictator Qaddafi.

Themes are smoothly and thoughtfully interwoven. This is not merely a book about historical events. It is not only one man's, the author's, struggle to come to terms with the uncertainty of his father's death and h
aPriL does feral sometimes
Hisham Matar’s revered Father, businessman and wealthy ex-Libyan Jaballa Matar, was a financier hero of several mysterious and failed Libya liberation movements fighting against the alpha male dictator Muammar Qaddafi. Muammer Qaddafi had engineered a coup in Libya in 1969 overthrowing Libya’s monarch, and he soon began a campaign of torture and terror to kill any possible political competition.

Very male author Hisham Matar, the respected masculine writer of this award-winning very masculine-ge

Description: In 2012, after the overthrow of Qaddafi, the acclaimed novelist Hisham Matar journeys to his native Libya after an absence of thirty years. When he was twelve, Matar and his family went into political exile. Eight years later Matar's father, a former diplomat and military man turned brave political dissident, was kidnapped from the streets of Cairo by the Libyan government and is believed to have been held in the regime's most notorious prison. Now, the prisons are empty and little
Peter Boyle
One of my favourite TV shows at the moment is The Leftovers. On an ordinary October day in 2011, two percent of world's population vanishes simultaneously, without trace. The plot focuses not on the mystery of the disappearance but on the deep anguish of the people left behind. It is the uncertainty surrounding the departure that hurts the most - those that remain cannot know for sure if their missing loved ones are dead or alive. They are forever denied a sense of closure - they don't even have ...more
Aug 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
Deeply moving, this is quite possibly the best book I've read so far this year!

In this memoir, Matar writes of his personal experience of the Libyan revolution, it's history, and the disastrous effects complete power can have on a nation. He writes of his family's time in exile, of grief and of loss, with an underlying note of hope throughout. Exquisitely written, this book deserves a lot more credit.

It may hurt your heart a little, but I think we all need that from time to time.

Straight to t
In 1969 a coup d'état took place in a North African country. The Free Officers Movement, a revolutionary group headed by a 27-year-old army officer called Muammar Qaddafi, disposed King Idris, Libya’s monarch. So began a 42 year reign of terror by the iron grip of Qaddafi and his family and supporters, where anyone who dared oppose the regime would be removed and imprisoned. Hisham Matar was born in the United States as his father was working there at the time with the Libyan delegation to the U ...more
Jan 27, 2017 rated it liked it

I tried people! I tried so damn hard, but…

Hisham Matar’s family is from Libya, but Matar grew up in Egypt, because his father was an opponent of the Qaddafi regime. If you don’t know anything about the Qaddafi regime here’s a buzzword: Benghazi.

Qaddafi imprisoned dissidents, or had them assassinated. Many of his opponents lived abroad, but that did not deter Qaddafi! He happily sent assassins all over the world to murder his adversaries.

An example from the book: Matar’s brother Ziad, while at sc

Jan 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
This memoir is the long, sad story of a 19-year-old Libyan boy (the author, Hisham Matar) who learns his father has been kidnapped and imprisoned as an opposition leader by Qaddafi. Finding out what became of his father becomes Hisham's lifelong purpose, and it's all detailed in this book.

In addition to tales of the family clan and the search, Hisham gives a little history of Libya which, I daresay, many no little about. For instance, I learned that the Italians who occupied Libya as colonial op
Jun 02, 2017 rated it it was ok
I'm the odd one out here, I guess. 50 + pages in, and I still find this book boring, and the writing far from natural. Better luck to others
Atty. Winston
Aug 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Wow, this book hooked me from the start and glued me to every page! Eloquently written and deeply felt, The Return by Hisham Matar is a haunting memoir about a son investigating the fate of his missing father under Qaddafi's reign in Libya. Hisham endeavors also to convey the modern history of Libya, what it was like to live under a brutal dictatorship and how the dissidents were inhumanely treated. This is a story of a terribly unimaginable deeds, but also a tale of oozing hope and indomitable ...more
Oct 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
«Il corpo di mio padre se n’è andato, ma il suo spazio è qui ed è occupato da qualcosa che non può essere considerato semplicemente un ricordo. È vivo e vitale. Come potrebbero la complessità dell’essere, la meccanica della nostra anatomia, l’intelligenza della nostra biologia, e lo sconfinato firmamento della nostra interiorità – pensieri, domande, struggimenti, speranze, bramosia e desiderio e le mille e una contraddizioni che ci abitano in ogni momento – avere una fine che si possa segnare co ...more
Marcello S
Aug 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Il dolore rattrappisce il cuore. E questo, io credo, è uno degli obiettivi. Fai sparire un uomo per metterlo a tacere ma anche per restringere la mente di quelli che rimangono, per corromperne l'anima e limitarne l'immaginazione. Quando Gheddafi ha preso mio padre, ha messo me in uno spazio non più grande della cella in cui era lui. (…) Ho vissuto perlopiù così, fra i venti e i trent'anni, finché, nell'autunno del 2002, dodici anni dopo la sparizione di mio padre, mi sono ritrovato sull'orlo del ...more
Fatimah  Elfeitori
Mar 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Thoughtful, emotional, philosophical and highly relatable. I cannot recommend this book enough!
Hisham Matar put into words my unexplained sense of 'belonging' and (over)romanticization of Benghazi, and Libya.

"My silent condemnation of those fellow exiles who wished to assimilate- which is to say, my bloody-minded commitment to rootlessness- was my feeble act of fidelity to the old country, or maybe not even to Libya but to the young boy I was when we left."

"Revolutions have their momentu
Jan 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I read this book with my phone sitting next to me. I learnt quite a bit of Libyan history as I read about Matar's quest to find out what happened to his father Jaballa Matar once he was kidnapped from his Cairo flat and imprisoned in the notorious Abu Salim prison by Gaddafi. After two and a half decades and numerous attempts to locate him Hisham Matar still does not know. A difficult read yet a compelling one.
This is a wonderful book. Read it and be a part of humanity.
Mikey B.
Feb 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is about prisoners in the jails of Libya during the long Qaddafi dictatorship. It is also, as in the author’s case, about those who quest forlornly, using any fragment of information, on those imprisoned. The author’s father, a resistance fighter against Qaddafi, was abducted on the streets of Cairo by Egypt’s secret police. From there he was sent to Libya and essentially disappeared in the morass of the Libyan prison system. This happened in 1990 when the author was 19 years old. Understan ...more
Jul 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I strongly recommend this moving account of a man coming to terms with his father's disappearance under the brutal Gaddafi regime in Libya.

Hisham Matar and his brother were born into a wealthy Libyan family and were both educated overseas. Their father, Jaballah Matar, was a prominent figure in Libyan political life and was an outspoken detractor of Gaddafi’s. In 1979 the family fled to Cairo, fearing for their safety. Despite this evasive measure and the family’s vigilance, in 1989, when Hisha
Jean Borg
Jul 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I read Hisham Matar's previous two books last Summer, in anticipation to his reading at the Malta Mediterranean Literature Festival. 'In the Country of Men' become my read of last year.

I had high expectations and it's one of the few books I ordered before the actual publishing date in these past few years, and the hardback and its beautiful cover was a joy to hold.

It starts rather slowly, since the writer does not have the freedom as when writing fiction, but then he seems to get true to his mot
Leila Soltani
Apr 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Living in a dictatorship, you would ask yourself how it’s possible that dictator regimes are this much similar...
After I finished the book this Persian poem came to my mind:
imprisoned bird, may you live and see that promising day that there is no cage in the world.
ای مرغ گرفتار بمانی و ببینی، آن روز همایون که به عالم قفسی نیست
An incredibly vulnerable and a heartbreaking memoir that will stay with me forever.
Jan 26, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A sad story but didn't work for me. After reading about this book I thought I absolutely had to read it. While studying at university in London, author Matar's father is kidnapped. Matar never sees his father again (this is not a spoiler as it's on the flap and was noted in several book previews). Yet the author hopes that his father might very well be alive, despite the horrors of the Gaddafi's regime. The book is the story of his journey and his search.
The book was a struggle. I really wanted
I have researched the father I never met: photos, letters, purple heart award. I corresponded with the grandson of the Croatian Freedom Fighter who returned my dad's body to the U. S. Army Air Corps. Dad was a pilot of one of the distinguished Lightning airplanes that brought destruction from the air to Germany in World War II.

Was he suited as the young husband of my mother, or as my father? "The body of my father is gone," this author writes,"but his place is here and occupied by something tha
Nada Elfeituri
Jul 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
Emotional exhausting. This is Matar's third book, and his first departure from fiction. In this book he recounts the full experience of losing his father, the one that his previous books were based on.

I'll be writing a full review on my blog once my mind takes it all in.
Jul 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Dan il-ktieb mhuwiex finzjoni imma rakkont reali dwar l-esperjenza tal-awtur, Hisham Matar, fuq ir-ritorn tiegħu lejn il-Libja wara l-waqgħa tad-dittatorjat ta' Gaddafi. Ir-ritorn ilaqqgħu mal-familjari li ħafna minnhom, bħal missieru, daqu l-kruha, il-ħruxija, l-inġustizzja, it-tortura, l-inumanità tad-detenzjoni tagħhom fil-ħabs Abu Salim. L-ebda kelma li nuża ma tista' tiddeskrivi r-rikkezza fl-emozzjonijiet li l-qarrej iħoss waqt ir-rakkont ta' Matar, bejn il-preżent waqt iż-żjara tiegħu u l ...more
From BBC Radio 4 - Book of the Week:
In this powerful memoir, Libyan novelist Hisham Matar describes the state of hope and grief he has endured in the two decades since his father, Jaballa, was kidnapped by Qaddafi's regime in 1990. Imprisoned and kept isolated from other prisoners, Jaballa managed to send only a handful of letters to his family before he disappeared without trace. To this day, no-one is sure what happened to him, although it is likely that he died in a massacre at Abu Salim pris
Hisham Matar berichtet in diesen Erinnerungen von der Suche nach seinem Vater, der 1989 im Auftrag des Gaddafi-Regimes entführt wurde und seitdem verschwunden ist. Mich haben die Themen Libyen, Arabischer Frühling und nicht zuletzt die vielen begeisterten Rezensionen zu diesem Buch greifen lassen.
Ohne Frage ist es schrecklich, was Hisham Matars Vater und damit auch der Familie, die in ständiger Ungewissheit und Gefahr lebte, widerfahren ist. Für sein mutiges Handeln, die Suche nicht aufzugeben
Jovi Ene
May 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
După zeci de ani de exil, la peste 20 de ani de la arestarea tatălui său, autorul revine în Libia, țara natală, țara pe care o iubește, țara care s-a aflat decenii la rând la cheremul unui dictator sângeros, Gaddafi, și a fiilor acestuia. Cartea nu este atât un volum de memorii, cât de recuperare a unei identități pierdute, a unor prietenii pe care nu a avut cum să le întrețină în toți acești ani, a unei nostalgii pentru propria țară, care se observă în fiecare rând. Nu în ultimul rând, este o c ...more
Claire Aherne
Mar 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Started this book last night and could not put it down! An amazingly written book about such a difficult experience. I knew so little about Libya's history but I am fascinated now to go out and read more books about it/watch documentaries etc.
In 'De terugkeer' brengt auteur Hisham Matar op ingetogen, sobere wijze verslag van zijn jarenlange zoektocht naar zijn vader, Jaballa Matar, die in 1990 door de Egyptische geheime dienst uit zijn flat in Caïro ontvoerd werd en aan Khadaffi werd uitgeleverd waarop hij jarenlang vastzat in de Libische Abu Salimgevangenis.
'n Zeer tragische neerslag over de uitwassen van elke vorm van dictatoriaal bewind...
Voor mezelf voelt het wat onkies aan om aan het boek de nodige goodreads sterren te koppelen.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Goodreads Librari...: Add a new book 3 16 Jun 11, 2018 07:47AM  
Play Book Tag: The Return by Hysham Matar - 5 stars 1 10 Feb 18, 2017 05:14AM  
  • My Tibetan Childhood: When Ice Shattered Stone
  • A Very English Scandal: Sex, Lies, and a Murder Plot at the Heart of the Establishment
  • Travels in Vermeer: A Memoir
  • The Morning They Came for Us: Dispatches from Syria
  • Children of Paradise: The Struggle for the Soul of Iran
  • The Devil That Danced on the Water: A Daughter's Quest
  • Cairo: My City, Our Revolution
  • The Turquoise Ledge: A Memoir
  • In the Shadow of Islam
  • The Theater of War: What Ancient Greek Tragedies Can Teach Us Today
  • The Faithful Scribe: A Story of Islam, Pakistan, Family, and War
  • بريد بغداد
  • In the Slender Margin: The Intimate Strangeness of Dying
  • Memories: From Moscow to the Black Sea
  • Comrades and Strangers: Behind the Closed Doors of North Korea
  • My Life as a Foreign Country: A Memoir
  • Common People: The History of An English Family
  • Native: Dispatches from an Israeli-Palestinian Life
Hisham Matar was born in New York City, where his father was working for the Libyan delegation to the United Nations. When he was three years old, his family went back to Tripoli, Libya, where he spent his early childhood. Due to political persecutions by the Ghaddafi regime, in 1979 his father was accused of being a reactionary to the Libyan revolutionary regime and was forced to flee the country ...more
More about Hisham Matar

Nonfiction Deals

  • Masters of the Air: America's Bomber Boys Who Fought the Air War Against Nazi Germany
    $15.99 $3.99
  • The Monster of Florence
    $10.99 $2.99
  • The Westies: Inside New York's Irish Mob
    $9.99 $1.99
  • April 1865 (P.S.)
    $11.74 $1.99
  • Jesus Is ______: Find a New Way to Be Human
    $7.99 $0.99
  • Scent of the Missing: Love and Partnership with a Search-and-Rescue Dog
    $17.99 $1.99
  • Lab 257
    $8.74 $1.99
  • How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Girl in the Woods: A Memoir
    $11.99 $1.99
  • The Power of When: Discover Your Chronotype--and the Best Time to Eat Lunch, Ask for a Raise, Have Sex, Write a Novel, Take Your Meds, and More
    $14.99 $2.99
  • The Last Lecture
    $10.99 $2.99
  • Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived
    $12.74 $1.99
  • Not Tonight, Honey: Wait 'Til I'm A Size 6
    $10.99 $1.99
  • The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter--And How to Make the Most of Them Now
    $11.99 $2.99
  • Heroes, Gods and Monsters of the Greek Myths
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Ladies of Liberty: The Women Who Shaped Our Nation
    $5.99 $1.99
  • The Ends of the World: Volcanic Apocalypses, Lethal Oceans, and Our Quest to Understand Earth's Past Mass Extinctions
    $12.99 $1.99
  • Feast: True Love in and out of the Kitchen
    $4.99 $1.99
  • The Last of the Doughboys: The Forgotten Generation and Their Forgotten World War
    $15.99 $1.99
  • Vaccinated: One Man's Quest to Defeat the World's Deadliest Diseases
    $10.99 $1.99
  • Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology
    $12.99 $2.99
  • An Appetite For Wonder: The Making Of A Scientist
    $7.99 $1.99
  • Letters of Note: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience
    $27.99 $2.99
  • Waiter Rant: Thanks for the Tip-Confessions of a Cynical Waiter
    $8.74 $1.99
  • Dakota: A Spiritual Geography (Dakotas)
    $13.99 $1.99
  • Restless: Because You Were Made for More
    $7.49 $1.99
  • Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany's, and The Dawn of the Modern Woman
    $10.24 $1.99
  • The Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinctions
    $16.99 $2.99
  • Happiness: The Crooked Little Road to Semi-Ever After
    $13.99 $3.99
  • Man-Eater: The Life and Legend of an American Cannibal
    $5.99 $2.99
  • Living Well, Spending Less: 12 Secrets of the Good Life
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Pukka: The Pup After Merle
    $17.99 $1.99
  • Buddhist Boot Camp
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Flour: A Baker's Collection of Spectacular Recipes
    $21.99 $3.99
  • The Longest Day: The Classic Epic of D-Day
    $12.99 $3.99
  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change
    $5.99 $1.99
  • Van Gogh
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Church of the Small Things: The Million Little Pieces That Make Up a Life
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Woman's Worth
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet
    $5.99 $1.99
  • Do the Work
    $4.99 $1.49
  • The Lost Tribe of Coney Island: Headhunters, Luna Park, and the Man Who Pulled Off the Spectacle of the Century
    $4.99 $1.99
  • I Suck at Girls
    $10.74 $1.99
  • Cesar's Way: The Natural, Everyday Guide to Understanding and Correcting Common Dog Problems
    $11.99 $3.99
  • The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women
    $14.99 $2.99
  • Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler's Eagle's Nest
    $12.99 $3.99
  • Peace Is Every Breath: A Practice for Our Busy Lives
    $9.49 $1.99
  • Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller's Tragic Quest for Primitive Art
    $14.99 $1.99
  • Londoners: The Days and Nights of London Now--As Told by Those Who Love It, Hate It, Live It, Left It, and Long for It
    $7.24 $1.99
  • The World's Last Night: And Other Essays
    $7.99 $1.99
  • A. Lincoln
    $13.99 $1.99
  • Tracks: One Woman's Journey Across 1,700 Miles of Australian Outback
    $17.99 $1.99
  • Daring to Drive: A Saudi Woman's Awakening
    $13.99 $1.99
  • Hell's Princess: The Mystery of Belle Gunness, Butcher of Men
    $5.99 $2.99
  • Life
    $11.99 $2.99
  • Seeing Further: The Story of Science and the Royal Society
    $13.24 $2.99
  • Grace, Not Perfection (with Bonus Content): Celebrating Simplicity, Embracing Joy
    $8.99 $1.99
  • The Promise and the Dream: The Untold Story of Martin Luther King, Jr. And Robert F. Kennedy
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Through the Eyes of a Lion: Facing Impossible Pain, Finding Incredible Power
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Why We Run: A Natural History
    $9.49 $1.99
  • Edgar Allan Poe: The Fever Called Living
    $5.99 $2.99
  • The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple
    $12.99 $2.99
“What do you do when you cannot leave and cannot return?” 4 likes
“And I remember this man who never ran out of poems telling me once that knowing a book by heart is like carrying a house inside your chest.” 3 likes
More quotes…