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Finding Nouf

May 2008

Finding Nouf

Finding Nouf is a San Francisco Chronicle Bestseller and winner of the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction. It was also chosen as one of the Best New Voices of the Year by Waterstone's Booksellers, one of the Ten Best Novels of the Spring by The Independent. It was a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection and a Book Sense pick.

When sixteen-year-old Nouf goes missing, her prominent family calls on Nayir Sharqi, a pious desert guide, to lead the search party. Ten days later, just as Nayir is about to give up in frustration, her body is discovered by anonymous desert travelers. 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.

He quickly 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 who is bold enough to pursue the investigation on her own. Their partnership challenges Nayir, as he confronts his desire for female companionship and the limitations imposed by his beliefs. Fast-paced and utterly transporting, Finding Nouf is a riveting literary mystery that offers an unprecedented window into Saudi Arabia and the lives of men and women there.

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"What's remarkable about this debut is that its mystery takes place within a culture that is largely under wraps... The thriller plot is well-placed. But it's the individual journeys of Nayir and Katya, who abide by society's strictures even as they are frustrated by them, that elevate Finding Nouf to a larger human drama."
—Entertainment Weekly

"[Ferraris] weaves a richly detailed tapestry of the country's gender-segregated and pious Muslim culture."
—Washington Post

"A finely tuned character study... both particularly well-crafted and readily accessible for American readers. Just make sure you turn up the air-conditioning before sitting down to read."
—Christian Science Monitor

"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."
—Sarah Weinman, Los Angeles Times

"In Finding Nouf, first-time novelist [Zoë Ferraris] gives us an imaginative and closely observed murder mystery set in the Saudi port town of Jeddah, a literary detective novel that balances the pleasures of plot with finely milled prose... As a good detective novel should, Finding Nouf visits all the nooks and crannies of society... Characters a lesser writer would skim over with a few generic adjectives come alive in Ferraris' hands and pull you into their world. But what truly sets this book apart from a detective novel is its prose."
—San Francisco Chronicle

"The author's canny move using the tried-and-true murder mystery format allows her to sketch a trenchant portrait of Saudi society within an engaging yarn."
—Minneapolis Star Tribune

"Finding Nouf, Zoë Ferraris' engrossing debut novel, yanks the veil off Saudi Arabian culture while unraveling a compelling murder mystery."
—The Oregonian

"A tense psychological drama, and a riveting portrait of everyday life in a society with paranoid attitudes towards women and sex."
—The Sunday Times

"Reads like a breeze... Ferraris offers a fascinating glimpse inside domestic Saudi Arabia. Even better, she has written a fascinating thriller, not only an academic treatment. Finding Nouf turns out to be a great beach read."
—Cleveland Plain Dealer


Kansas City Star review

Finding Nouf book review, Entertainment Weekly

Winner of the LA Times Book Award for First Fiction

ALA Alex Award Winner

Oregonian Review

"Finding Nouf, Planting Roots," San Francisco Chronicle

Christian Science Monitor

KQED Live Reading of Finding Nouf

Times Online

The Independent

Haaretz Review

PRI's "The World" summer pick

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt hardcover, June 2008, ISBN-13: 978-0618873883
Mariner Books paperback, May 2009, ISBN-13: ISBN-13: 978-0547237787