The Sand Fish by Maha Gargash
In 1950s Saudia Arabia, Noora is trapped in a place and time that is wrong for her. Women have no control over their own lives and destinies. And so it is that her brother, Sagar, declaring himself the man of the family, decides the time had come to match Noora to a husband. She is deemed lucky when matchmakers find a rich husband for her — never mind that this husband is old, penurious, and has two wives already.
Once married, Noora travels with her new husband and his first wife far away to the village of Neema. Her new life is one of isolation and petty jealousies, with the second wife who has been shunted aside as she failed, as did the first, to bare the husband a child. Now it’s Noora’s turn to give him what he wants — a son.
While Noora tolerates her new existence and the advances of her husband, she finds some relief in the friendship of her husband’s man servant. Before long, she’s given an opportunity to escape with someone who loves her — but maybe that will be just another kind of trap in a world where value a woman’s value is determined solely by what she is able to contribute to the men in her world.
Beautifully written, this novel paints a painful and memorable portrait of the lives of women in a culture that sees them only as property. An excellent choice for book clubs interested in different cultures and different times.
Harper/HarperCollins; ISBN 978-0-06174-467-0; $14.99.
The Sand Fish: Reading Guide