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Review: Finding Nouf (Zoe Ferraris)

Title: Finding Nouf
Author: Zoe Ferraris
Genre: YA/Adult mystery
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Challenges: PoC; Mystery; Middle East Reading
FTC Disclosure: I borrowed this book from my school library
Summary (from the inside flap of the book): When sixteen-year-old Nouf goes missing, along with a truck and a camel, her prominent family calls on Nayir ash-Sharqi, a desert guide, to lead a search party. Ten days later, 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 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.

Review: Last summer I bought a book called City of Veils by this same author and never really started it. Then I discovered that City of Veils is the second book in a series, with Finding Nouf coming first. So, on to Finding Nouf, which I really enjoyed.

I love a good mystery and this book definitely has that going for it. There is a murder, an unofficial investigator, a link to a coroner's office (always a plus in my mind), and intrigue. What more could a reader want? So the plot worked for me, it was believable, flowed at a good pace, and the ending didn't feel like it came out of nowhere.

I really liked the characters, especially Nayir and Katya. The supporting characters are interesting and definitely play an important role, especially showing what life is like for the wealthy in Saudi Arabia. The servants, the isolated living (especially for women), and the extravagance are shown, not told, which is great. I liked that Katya is an observant muslim woman, but that she is comfortable enough with herself and her beliefs that she can break the rules when necessary. She is also confident enough to state her mind, work outside the home, and to pursue her interests.

Nayir is a great and gentle narrator. While very pious he doesn't come off as fanatical. Through his eyes the reader learns a tremendous amount about life for both men and women in Saudi Arabia and since we see his version, we understand why they behave the way they do and why the rules are so strict. It doesn't mean we agree with their lifestyle, but we can understand it better when we're done with the book.
    Geography Connection:

    Click to see my updated Google Map. This book is set in Saudi Arabia and I initially read it for my the Middle East Reading Challenge so here are some other books I've read that work for that challenge:


    Amanda said...

    While I haven't read this one yet (the second book is practically a standalone), I found Nayir to be kind of fanatical in the second book. I like Katya a lot, though. I'm definitely looking forward to reading this one!

    Helen's Book Blog said...

    Amanda--too bad he gets more fanatical in the second book. He is definitely religious in the first, but in a gentle sort of way

    Athira said...

    This one is on my wishlist! I've been waiting to read this for some time. I'm glad this doesn't come off as fanatical in tone - that I struggle with a lot in reading.

    Helen's Book Blog said...

    Aths--I do think you'll like it and be comfortable with the religious aspects of Nayir's character. He allows the reader to get a very interesting glimpse into Saudi culture

    Deb said...

    Hi, Helen,
    I absolutely loved Zoe's "Finding Nouf." I reviewed it last year on my blog and found it to be one of my favorite books of 2010. It really had an affect on changing my views about Muslims and Saudis. I haven't read her other books, but am anxious to.
    Thanks for stopping by my blog. I'm enjoying "The Giver." I don't know how I ever made it through childhood without reading it!!

    Helen's Book Blog said...

    Deborah--I love finding someone else who loves a book that I really like! And, so glad you are loving the Giver; it really is an amazing book

    (Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

    I loved this book a lot and am anxious to read her newest book as well. Nice review Helen.

    Helen's Book Blog said...

    Diane--Is City of Veils the newest or is there another one out there? I will eventually get to City of Veils, but need some other books in between