The Sand Fish
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The Sand Fish

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by Maha Gargash
     
 

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A fascinating window into a different culture—and an inspiring and unforgettable universal story of strength and self-reliance—from an extraordinarily wise and lyrical new literary voice

Coming of age in the 1950s, seventeen-year-old Noora is unlike other women of the sun-battered mountains at the tip of the Arabian

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Overview

A fascinating window into a different culture—and an inspiring and unforgettable universal story of strength and self-reliance—from an extraordinarily wise and lyrical new literary voice

Coming of age in the 1950s, seventeen-year-old Noora is unlike other women of the sun-battered mountains at the tip of the Arabian Peninsula. Though she shares their poverty and, like them, bears life's hardships without complaint, she is also fiery and independent. Following the death of her mother and her father's descent into dazed madness, Noora flees the threat of an arranged marriage, only to be driven back to her unwanted fate by disappointment and heartbreak. As the third wife to a rich, much older man, Noora struggles to adjust to her new home by the sea, thinking of herself as a sand fish—the desert lizard she observed in the mountains, which, when stuck in the wrong place and desperate to escape, smashed itself again and again into unyielding rocks. But then a light is shone into her miserable darkness, resulting in an unexpected passion, a shocking indiscretion, and a secret that could jeopardize Noora's life.

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Editorial Reviews

Booklist
“Unadorned, poetic language, filled with well-integrated cultural detail. . . . [A] terrific choice for bookclub discussions. . . . This may find appeal with fans of The Kite Runner.”
Publishers Weekly
Dubai native Gargash weaves an enticing tale of a fiery, independent woman struggling to live the life she has been assigned in the 1950s in the area outside modern Dubai. Noora Al-Salmi is 17. Her mother has died, her father has since gone mad, and her brother, Sager, is trying to provide for her. When Sager hears of a rich pearl merchant looking for a new wife, Noora, unhappy with this plan, escapes to a nearby village where she quickly becomes involved with a man who, unbeknownst to her, is promised to another woman. She returns home to find that Sager has married her off to the merchant. With intimate, well-paced prose, Gargash takes us along with Noora to her new life: competing with her husband's two other wives and enduring the nightly ritual in hopes of a child for the household. But when Noora begins an illicit affair, she becomes mistress of her fate. Does she choose the confines of security or the potential happiness of freedom? An exciting, passion-filled read that illuminates an intriguing culture through the eyes and experience of a feisty heroine. (Nov.)
Library Journal
Gargash's unusual first novel propels the reader into the restrictive world of 1950s Dubai. Noora, a spirited tomboy, has always taken on both male and female roles in her household. As she grows to womanhood, however, she finds herself increasingly trapped by the narrow expectations of both her brother and her extended family. After several attempts to assert her independence, Noora finally accepts her role as third wife to a wealthy merchant; yet her internal struggles multiply, eventually disrupting the entire household. Gargash's central metaphor is heavy-handed: not even the most literal-minded reader could fail to see the connection between Noora and the sand fish. The novel shines, however, in its vivid descriptions of town, sea, and desert, which are a luscious treat for readers who value setting. Indeed, the novel's heavy reliance on visual elements almost guarantees a film version somewhere down the line. VERDICT Gargash's poignant plot will appeal to diehard fans of world literature, but Noora's story just might pack more punch on the big screen.—Leigh Anne Vrabel, Carnegie Lib. of Pittsburgh
Kirkus Reviews
A young woman's story opens a window into Dubai on the verge of modernity. Teenaged Noora lives with her brothers and her father in an isolated area of the current-day United Arab Emirates. It's the 1950s, the period just before the UAE exploded due to oil trade with the West. Noora's home is a stone hut; she milks goats and sleeps on a mattress she rolls out every evening. Her dad suffers from dementia, so Noora's oldest brother, Sager, takes it upon himself to marry her off. A series of events leads to Noora's betrothal to Jassem, a rich pearl merchant who lives seven days away by sea passage. She knows she should be grateful to be lifted out of poverty, but this strong-willed girl with a taste for independence does not fall easily into the role of Jassem's third wife. Seaside and desert locales, along with the transitional time period, give a fresh twist to this standard tradition-versus-modernity plotline; it's unfortunate that none of the characters are as novel. Lateefa, the first wife, is a blend of mother figure and puppeteer, quietly shaping the family to her own design from underneath her burka. Shamsa, the beautiful second wife, is jealous of Noora and ashamed that she could not produce what her rival soon will-a son. Noora is just another in a long line of strong-willed female protagonists. Jassem is a smart businessman and a decent husband for the times, though his power over his wives and the contrast between their captivity and his freedom will shock modern-day Western readers. Gargash's debut has a predictable plotline and cookie-cutter characters, but her setting is original.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061744679
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
10/20/2009
Pages:
361
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.90(d)

Meet the Author

Maha Gargash was born in Dubai. In 1985, she joined Dubai Radio and Television to pursue her interest in documentaries. Through directing television programs, which deal mainly with traditional Arab societies, she became involved in research and scriptwriting, work which evolved into The Sand Fish.

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The Sand Fish 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago