Subtitled ‘The Mysterious Disappearance of Mustafa Ouda', Ahmed Masoud's fine novel is a highly charged tale of loss and betrayal; of bad choices made in worse circumstances. Set in Gaza and spanning three decades from the 1980's to the present day, the book tells of Omar Ouda's search for his father, Mustafa, who disappeared one night from the family home. Was he abducted by the occupying Israeli forces? Was he caught up in the internecine struggles between rival Palestinian groups? Or were there family reasons, unfathomable to the young Omar, for his father's abrupt departure? The time frame of the novel is important, covering as it does the first and second Palestinian Intifadas and the Oslo Peace Accords. Omar's quest, abetted by his faithful friend Ahmed, brings him to the attention of the Israeli military and he is forced to choose between his family and his community, making decisions no young boy should have to face. He is, by dint of circumstance, led to an understanding of the realities of life in Gaza under brutal occupation, and both he and the reader come to appreciate the ineluctable necessity of resistance.
The author skillfully plots Omar's journey from innocent child to unwilling informer to conflicted freedom fighter. The revelations about his father, when they arrive, are both surprising and developed satisfyingly from the plot. Vanished is an accomplished novel that, quietly and without didacticism, gets to the heart of the terrible sacrifices demanded of a people living in a state of permanent, unrelenting siege.
**** Four Stars - Publisher's Weekly (PW)