Bride of the Sea

Tin House. Jan. 2021. 312p. ISBN 9781951142452. pap. $16.95. F
DEBUT In her strong debut, Quotah spans the post-9/11 decades and locates her well-developed characters in both Saudi Arabia and Cleveland. At the novel’s onset, Muneer and Saeedah are on a path to divorce, leading to shared parenting of their daughter, Hanadi. Saeedah’s fear of losing her daughter to Muneer, as well as a culture invoking multiple restrictions on women’s freedom, eventually drive her to disappear with Hanadi in tow. In the aftermath, Muneer is consumed with finding them, even going so far as to hire private investigators. Saeedah successfully eludes Muneer’s determined efforts for more than a decade, but when Hanadi comes of age, she embarks on a journey to reconnect with her extended family and her lost heritage.
VERDICT Quotah’s family saga effectively captures the struggles of immigrants straddling two cultures, while reiterating beautifully the imperfections of all families characterized by loss, betrayal, and secrets. Only some slow pacing in the narrative’s middle, and less development of Saeedah’s perspective, compared to that of Muneer and Hanadi, mar an otherwise welcome exploration of Saudi Arabian–American history, culture, and traditions.
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