By Zoe Ferraris
(Mariner Books, Paperback, 9780547237787, 320pp.)
Publication Date: May 2009
Other Editions of This Title: Hardcover
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Fast-paced and utterly transporting, Finding Nouf is a riveting literary mystery and an unprecedented window into the lives of men and women in Saudi Arabia.
When sixteen-year-old Nouf goes missing, her prominent family calls on Nayir al-Sharqi, a pious desert guide, to lead the search party. Ten days later, just as Nayir is about to give up in frustration, her body is discovered by anonymous desert travelers. But when the coroner’s office determines that Nouf died not of dehydration but from drowning, and her family seems suspiciously uninterested in getting at the truth, Nayir takes it upon himself to find out what really happened. He quickly realizes that if he wants to gain access to the hidden world of women, he will have to join forces with Katya Hijazi, a lab worker at the coroner’s office who is bold enough to bare her face and to work in public. Their partnership challenges Nayir and forces him to reconcile his desire for female companionship within the parameters imposed by his beliefs.
This is ZO? FERRARIS's first novel. She moved to Saudi Arabia in the aftermath of the first gulf war to live with her then husband and his extended family of Saudi-Palestinian Bedouins, who had never welcomed an American into their lives before. She has an MFA from Columbia University and currently lives in San Francisco.
1. Nayir feels obligated to find Nouf as a favor to his friend Othman, and to the Shrawi family, which has been very good to him. What deeper meaning does the search for Nouf have for Nayir? Discuss the relevance of the title, Finding Nouf.
"What''s remarkable about this debut is that its mystery takes place within a culture that is largely under wraps ... The thriller plot is well-placed. But it''s the individual journeys of Nayir and Katya, who abide by society''s strictures even as they are frustrated by them, that elevate Finding Nouf to a larger human drama."
"[Ferraris] weaves a richly detailed tapestry of the country''s gender-segregated and pious Muslim culture."
"A finely tuned character study ... both particularly well-crafted and readily accessible for American readers. Just make sure you turn up the air-conditioning before sitting down to read."
"Ferraris writes with authority on how Saudi insiders and outsiders alike perceive the United States ... With equal authority, she stakes her own claim on the world map, opening Saudi Arabia up for mystery fans to reveal the true minds and hearts of its denizens."
"In Finding Nouf, first-time novelist [Zoe Ferraris] gives us an imaginative and closely observed murder mystery set in the Saudi port town of Jeddah, a literary detective novel that balances the pleasures of plot with finely milled prose ... As a good detective novel should, Finding Nouf visits all the nooks and crannies of society ... Characters a lesser writer would skim over with a few generic adjectives come alive in Ferraris''s hands and pull you into their world. But what truly sets this book apart from a detective novel is its prose."
"The author''s canny move using the tried-and-true murder mystery format allows her to sketch a trenchant portrait of Saudi society within an engaging yarn."
"Finding Nouf, Zoe Ferraris''s engrossing debut novel, yanks the veil off Saudi Arabian culture while unraveling a compelling murder mystery."
"Reads like a breeze ... Ferraris offers a fascinating glimpse inside domestic Saudi Arabia. Even better, she has written a fascinating thriller, not only an academic treatment. Finding Nouf turns out to be a great beach read."