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[156] Finding Nouf – Zoë Ferraris

“Something greater was crumbling inside him, the wall that held the strength of his beliefs, and it hurt to feel himself weakening, to feel this much sympathy for women like Nouf who felt trapped by their lives, by prescriptions of modesty and domesticity that might have suited the Prophet’s wives but that didn’t suit the women of this world…” [296]

Sixteen-years-old Nouf Shrawi, to almost every outsider, has everything: a fiancé, an inexhaustible fortune, and a luxurious life. Her sudden disappearance has perplexed the family because how can she have left everything behind in the prospect of fulfillment of her happiness? Is she really happy? When she is found drowned in the desert (at a wadi: riverbed that is quickly inundated during heaving rains) outside of Jeddah, Nayair al-Sharqi, a guide of Palestinian descent hired by the family to search for her, feels compelled to find out what really happened.

That the family has hastily buried Nouf, who was pregnant, and requests the coroner to classify her case accidental death only elevates Nayair’s suspicion. The random pieces of clues suggestive of kidnapping or suicide initially eventually nudge to the hypothesis of a murder. To advance his private investigation and gain access to the world of women, Nayair realizes he will have to collaborate with Katya Jijazi, a lab technician at the coroner’s lab who surreptitiously runs DNA tests on samples collected from alleged crime sites and the family house.

Revealed in light of the investigation are the repressed lives of women, who are strictly segregated from men–separate entrances to school and work, religious police to monitor public immodesty, closed apparel and accessories to avoid showing of skin. If happiness is gauged by materialism, these women, at least those in rich families, must be in heaven; but Nouf’s desire to leave at all expense speaks otherwise. Her scheme to fled the country would be a spit on her parents faces. A noisy protest. She realized that her family wanted her to live the dream they let her have. The society is founded on belief in the virtues of tradition designed to protect women. All the prescriptions for modesty, decent behavior, and abstinence before marriage are meant to prevent the sort of tragedy that has befallen Nouf; and yet these restrictions only fetter the lives of many. The paradox only confronts Nayair’s bitterness longing for female companionship.

Finding Nouf is a page-turner—so captivating in unraveling the mystery to Nouf’s death. It’s like CSI set in Saudi Arabia with a local touch and a reflection on the strict religious and traditional values system that, in order to cover up sexual scandal, hinder the truth. At the heart of the conflict between these values and the heart ‘s desire is someone who feels the wall that holds the strength of his beliefs is crumbling within him. Although the Saudi Islamic is finely portrayed with respect and awe, many of the characters are outsiders to the rigid and traditional Islamic society in which they are living. Each searches for acceptance and peace but often finds danger, discomfort because their feeling a bitter sense of loss. A keeper.

8 Responses

  1. I hope that I can find this book. Sounds great

  2. Wow, this book sounds really good. I’d heard about it briefly but am so glad to read your review.

  3. I really and truly can’t wait to get to this one. I can see it on my shelf from here. I’ll come back and comment some more after I’ve read it. Great review as always!

  4. […] one occasion I have purchased the books after I enjoyed the ARCs tremendously. To name a couple Finding Nouf by Zoe Ferraris and The Future of Love by Shirley […]

  5. […] (Published in 2008) The Future of Love Shirley Abbott Letter from Point Clear Dennis McFarland Finding Nouf Zoë Ferraris The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie […]

  6. […] first Nobel Prize to be awarded to a Turkish citizen. Last year I read Zoë Ferraris’s debut Finding Nouf set in Saudi […]

  7. […] first Nobel Prize to be awarded to a Turkish citizen. Last year I read Zoë Ferraris’s debut Finding Nouf set in Saudi […]

  8. […] misunderstanding and denial of heritage in The Namesake; and the repression of women in Finding Nouf. My only complaint is that Haji doesn’t reveal more about Mohsin, her gay cousin, who has […]

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