Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Pg. 69: Zoë Ferraris' "Finding Nouf"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Finding Nouf by Zoë Ferraris.

About the book, from the publisher:
Zoë Ferraris’s 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 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 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 coroner’s 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.
Among early acclaim for the novel:
"Finding Nouf is an astounding feat of storytelling, a gripping novel that also explores with unsparing, sympathetic insight how the men and women of Saudi Arabia’s new generation struggle with their modernizing yet still traditional society.
—Azadeh Moaveni, author of Lipstick Jihad

"Finding Nouf is my favorite kind of mystery: an unlikely detective guiding us through an unfamiliar world. Ferraris uses the genre smartly, setting an unsolved murder in a society that is complex, veiled, and itself full of mystery and intrigue."
—David Ebershoff, author of The 19th Wife

"Zoë Ferraris’s novel lifts the veil on the repressed personal lives of Saudi Arabia’s rich, giving us unparalleled insight into daily life in an oft-caricatured culture—and a great mystery. Her detective, Nayir al-Sharqi, is a sharp desert guide, and one might say that in her writing Ferraris follows a similar profession."
—Matt Beynon Rees, author of The Collaborator of Bethlehem

"Finding Nouf combines the ancient mysteries of the desert with sleek literary prose. This deeply original work is entrancing, stylish, and utterly compelling."
—Diana Abu-Jaber, author of Crescent

"Ferraris offers up 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."

"With her debut novel, Zoe Ferraris makes a wonderful contribution to the burgeoning genre of ethnographic literary crime fiction."
Financial Times

"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."
Los Angeles Times
Read an excerpt from Finding Nouf, and learn more about the book and author at Zoë Ferraris' website.

Zoë Ferraris has an M.F.A. from Columbia University. She received first prize for mystery fiction at the Santa Barbara Writers’ Conference.

The Page 69 Test: Finding Nouf.

--Marshal Zeringue