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Anatomy of a Disappearance

by Hisham Matar

This is the tale of a young boy growing up, melded within a Greek-style tragedy that encases the undiscussed death of his mother, his father's marriage to a young woman that the boy actually falls in love with first, and then the father's mysterious disappearance. Although it feels melancholy, it isn't sad, and the lyrical writing is a moving discussion of loss and grief, of secrecy and the truth.

Extract

Father said, softly, almost absentmindedly, 'Your mother would have liked this.' Then he moved on to the next picture, another Turner. I was startled by what he said. Anger was sudden. If it were not for its surprising and perplexing speed, I might have been able to express it more nakedly. Where I had repeatedly failed, an old painting succeeded. It was as if my father was not really talking to me at all. It was so rare for him to talk about my mother in this way. I did not know what to say. I wanted to ask so many things about her, particularly about what she was like before I was born. And I felt a window had opened, that Father was unconsciously allowing me to glimpse a part of her, if only for a moment.

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