A firsthand view of conflict in the Middle East.
In 1985, Shiite militia in Lebanon kidnapped Associated Press reporter Terry Anderson and held him hostage for the next six years. It wasn’t until his release in 1991 that his daughter, the author, met him for the first time, and ever after the relationship was fraught. He suffered from PTSD and was emotionally unavailable, “numb and dismissive,” while, to judge by this memoir, his daughter was emotionally needy and made her fair share of poor decisions. Drug abuse, abusive boyfriends, mental illness: all are aspects of “the legacy of trauma I was born with.” Though the author’s point is well-taken that political acts have reverberating consequences that affect people far away from the main stage, her narrative is always less interesting when the focus is on her. Her father is another matter; though clearly flawed and wounded, he emerges as a player in a political drama of a complex, sometimes nearly incomprehensible character. Anderson is at her best when she teases apart the narrative’s many threads, which number not just Hezbollah, but also the broader community of Shiite Islam, to say nothing of Israeli intelligence, the CIA, Iran, and other actors in set pieces such as the Beirut embassy bombing. The author’s vigorous on-the-ground investigation of these matters, talking with sometimes-shadowy and seldom pleasant operatives, redeems the book from its self-absorbed excesses. The narrative is also timely; though some of the cast has changed, Anderson’s depiction of the relationship between Lebanese civilians and Syrian refugees, say, shows how enmities and alliances in the region have taken years to form. Ultimately, it’s a solid but not groundbreaking contribution to understanding the multifaceted tensions of a region that seems willfully resistant to peace.
A middling book, much of it a footnote to an event that’s already well-receded into history, even though it is part of a larger conflict still unfolding.