In the Country of Men by Hisham Matar (246 pgs) 2007
My faith in novels in restored. After 2 1/2 books of awful writing that forced me to skim rather than read, In the Country of Men was a welcome delight. I was still in skim mode but in just one paragraph, I began to slow down and savor. Matar’s writing is an example of true craftsmanship. It is pure poetry.
The story focuses the young Suleiman growing up in post-Revolution Libya. His sole source of worry is his mother’s mysterious recurring “illness” during his father’s frequent business trips. Suleiman’s innocent enjoyment is jolted when he glimpses his father across a market square when he’s supposed to be away on business. Suleiman soon finds his world crumbling around him. The revolutionary guard follows the family, mysterious voices monitor phone conversations, and he doesn’t understand what the adults in his life whisper to each other about.