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Finding Noufby Zoe Ferraris
Synopses & Reviews
A captivating page-turner that vividly evokes Saudi Arabian society and introduces an original new hero.
When sixteen-year-old Nouf goes missing and is found drowned in the desert outside Jeddah, Nayir — a desert guide hired by her prominent family to search for her — feels compelled to find out what really happened. Gentle, hulking, conscientious Nayir soon finds himself delving into the interior life of a wealthy, protected teenage girl in one of the most rigidly segregated of Middle Eastern societies.To gain access to the world of women, Nayir realizes he will have to join forces with Katya Hijazi, a lab technician at the coroner's office and the fiancee of Nouf's brother. In the course of working with Katya and uncovering the mysteries of the dead girl's mind, Nayir must confront his own desire for female companionship — and the limitations imposed by his beliefs.
Finding Nouf offers an unprecedented glimpse of daily life in Saudi Arabia in a lyrical, character-driven, and immensely satisfying mystery. Like Mma Romotswe in Alexander McCall Smith's best-selling series, Nayir al-Sharqi is a completely new kind of detective, who is sure to captivate both our hearts and our minds.
"A finely detailed literary mystery set in contemporary Saudi Arabia, Ferraris's debut centers on Nouf ash-Shrawi, a 16-year-old girl who disappeared into the desert three days before her marriage and has been found dead, several weeks pregnant. Palestinian Nayir al-Sharqi who lives in Jeddah and works occasionally for the rich Shrawi family, is asked by them to investigate Nouf's death discreetly. Nayir, a conservative Muslim and an outsider because of his nationality, his class and his large stature, is wary of traversing the wide gulf between Saudi men's and women's worlds, and is encouraged by his friend Othman, an adopted son of the Shrawis, to seek out the help of Katya Hijazi, Othman's fiance. Katya has a Ph.D. and is employed in the women's section of the state medical examiner's office. As Nayir and Katya's investigation progresses, it becomes clear that at least one of the Shrawis has something to hide. Ferraris, who has lived in Saudi Arabia, gets deep inside Nayir's and Katya's very different perspectives, giving a fascinating glimpse into the workings and assumptions of Saudi society. As a mystery, it's fairly well-turned, but it's the characters and setting that sparkle. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Ferraris's debut novel gives a fascinating peek into the lives and minds of devout Muslim men and women while serving up an engrossing mystery....Highly recommended." Library Journal
"A finely nuanced first novel offering an exceptionally balanced look at male and female perspectives." Kirkus Reviews
"On the surface, Finding Nouf is a straight-up whodunit with comic undertones. But Ferraris takes a pedestrian venue and whisks the story into 1,001 wonders. Her characters are clearly drawn, her observations as sharp and the story unrolls like silk. As a vehicle into another world, this novel is better than a magic carpet ride." Oregonian
"Far-flung mysteries have been the thing for a few years, but Finding Nouf is both particularly well-crafted and readily accessible for American readers." Christian Science Monitor
"[T]hough the structure...flirts with the clichés of a murder mystery, the novel fills a niche: Glimpses of life inside Saudi Arabia are rare, and the novel is an intriguing portrait of a patriarchy that bars women from driving and only recently allowed them to rent apartments on their own." Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Ferraris writes with authority about 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 for mystery fans to reveal the true minds and hearts of its denizens." Los Angeles Times
Zoë Ferrariss electrifying debut of taut psychological suspense offers an unprecedented window into Saudi Arabia and the lives of men and women there. When sixteen-year-old Nouf goes missing, along with a truck and her favorite camel, her prominent family calls on Nayir al-Sharqi, a desert guide, to lead a 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 coroners 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 to her.
This mission will push gentle, hulking, pious Nayir, a Palestinian orphan raised by his bachelor uncle, to delve into the secret life of a rich, protected teenage girl — in one of the most rigidly gender-segregated of Middle Eastern societies. Initially horrified at the idea of a woman bold enough to bare her face and to work in public, Nayir soon 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 coroners office. Their partnership challenges Nayir, bringing him face to face with his desire for female companionship and the limitations imposed by his beliefs. It also ultimately leads them both to surprising revelations. Fast-paced and utterly transporting, Finding Nouf offers an intimate glimpse inside a closed society and a riveting literary mystery.
About the Author
Zoe Ferraris moved to Saudi Arabia in the aftermath of the first Gulf War to live with her then-husband and his extended family, a group of Saudi-Palestinian Bedouins who had never welcomed an American into their lives before. She first conceived the idea for Finding Nouf at a jacket bazaar in Jeddah, where her ex-husband bought a Columbo coat and proposed setting off to solve mysteries — though to Zoë the only mystery at the time was why they were at a jacket bazaar in the hottest country in the world. She has an M.F.A. from Columbia University and received first prize for mystery fiction at the Santa Barbara Writers' Conference in 2003. She currently lives in San Francisco with her teenage daughter. Finding Nouf is Ferraris's first novel. Translation rights have so far sold in thirteen countries.
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