Sunday, June 1, 2008

Finding Nouf by Zoe Ferraris

At its base, Finding Nouf is a murder mystery. A young girl has run away from home and her wealthy family calls in a friend to help look for her. The family friend becomes intrigued by the girl and begins to track down the details of her life. If that was all there was to this novel, I would still recommend it. I liked the twisting (but not falsely complicated) nature of the story. I liked the main characters, their flaws, their interesting lives.
But, there's more to the story - it is set in a coastal city in contemporary Saudi Arabia. Nouf lead the life of a very sheltered, rich Muslim girl. She runs away from home shortly before her wedding to a man who has never seen her face. Nayir, the family friend, is a devout Muslim who faints at the sight of too much female flesh exposed. The forensic investigation is carried out by a woman with a PhD  who has shamed her family by wanting to work.
All the little details add a fascinating other level to Finding Nouf. One of the strengths of this book is that they give insight into what life would be like for the characters, but never feel like they've been brought up to say, "look how strange they are, look how different they are from us." Instead, I found myself understanding a little better why a woman might choose to wear a headscarf.