by Hisham Matar
"Qaddafi's Libya, 1979. Nine-year-old Suleiman one day sees his father across the square of a busy marketplace. Wasn't he supposed to be away on business yet again? Why is he going into that strange building with the green shutters? Why did he lie?
Suleiman is soon caught up in a world he cannot hope to understand -- where the sound of the telephone ringing becomes a portent of grave danger; where his mother frantically burns his father's cherished books; where a stranger full of sinister questions sits outside in a parked car all day.
In the Country of Men is a stunning depiction of a child confronted with the private fallout of a public nightmare." (From the back of the Dial Press Trade Paperback edition.)
I was originally going to say that my lack of knowledge regarding the politics in Libya dampened my enthusiasm for In the Country of Men, but after thinking on it for a while I decided it actually enhanced the effect of the novel. The story is told from the point of view of a young boy who doesn't understand what is happening or the reasons for it until he is older. My own ignorance put me in a position similar to that of the young Suleiman, which was just as frustrating to me as it was to him.
I didn't love this book, but it made me curious and reflective. There are books that maybe don't rip your heart out and cause you to brood for days, leaping immediately to your list of your life's most impactful reads, but they do make you think twice about complaining about your life. In the Country of Men is one of those.
NOTICE: (Updated March 5, 2010)
Beginning December 19, 2009, Books 'N Border Collies will be posting but only intermittently while I pursue personal goals. I plan to share some reading I'm doing, but there will be no reviews. I will, however, be sharing my exploration of vegetarian cooking and the cookbooks and websites I use to educate myself. I hope you enjoy it!