Finding Nouf by Zoe Ferraris
A Novel

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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.

About Zoe Ferraris

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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.
Published May 6, 2009 by Mariner Books. 315 pages
Genres: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Nayir interprets Katya’s professional confidence as brazen, even sinful, but they are drawn together by the belief that Nouf’s official cause of death hides the truth (also hidden is the fact that she was pregnant).

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Book Reporter

Many of the characters are outsiders to the rigid and traditional society in which they are living: Othman is the adopted Iraqi son of the Shrawi family, Nouf is passionate and curious in a world where she is expected to be quiet and restrained, Katya is educated and bold and seems to some immode...

Jan 21 2011 | Read Full Review of Finding Nouf: A Novel

Entertainment Weekly

But it's the individual journeys of Nayir and Katya, who abide by their society's strictures even as they are frustrated by them, that elevate Finding Nouf to a larger human drama.

Jun 13 2008 | Read Full Review of Finding Nouf: A Novel

USA Today

Finding Nouf offers a fascinating, often heartbreaking glimpse behind the veils of Saudi Arabia's Muslim women.

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The reader enters places few Americans ever see, including the inner sanctum of a Saudi family, which Ferraris knows first-hand: she lived in Jeddah with her then-husband and his Saudi-Palestinian family following the Gulf War.

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Bookmarks Magazine

Zoë Ferraris, who lived in Saudi Arabia after the first Gulf War, sets her debut novel amid the sand and oil of Saudi Arabia, offering a glimpse of modern Saudi life.

Jun 17 2008 | Read Full Review of Finding Nouf: A Novel


When faced with the prospect of working with Katya, who is not the average Saudi-Arabian woman, although she covers her face, a hermit-like Nayir is hesitant and almost hostile.

Feb 09 2011 | Read Full Review of Finding Nouf: A Novel

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