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Maha Gargash

The Sand Fish: A Novel from Dubai

The Sand Fish: A Novel from Dubai

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Seventeen-year-old Noora is not like the other women of the sun-battered mountains of the Arabian Peninsula in the 1950s. She shares their poverty and uncomplaining existence, but carries a fiery independence. With the death of her mother, her father sinks into a dazed madness. That's when her brother assumes responsibility and insists that she marry. Noora refuses, and flees to a nearby mountain village. While in hiding, she falls for the first man who's ever recognized her beauty and femininity, only to discover to her horror that he is already promised to another village daughter. Noora is shattered and returns home to find that her father has disappeared and that her brother has arranged her marriage. As she begins her new life by the sea, Noora remembers the sand fish, a desert lizard she had spotted in the mountains. In its panic at her intrusion, it did only what was natural: it dove into the rocks, again and again, till it bashed its snout. Just like the sand fish, she is stuck in the wrong place, struggling to escape. At night, she 'performs her duty' and during the day, she faces the increasing impatience of the first wife, and the jealously of the second wife.
Her heart is full of fear that her inability to conceive might result in being thrown out of the house, with nowhere to go. She is miserable, until a brief, intense affair with her husband's apprentice finally leads to a pregnancy - and a secret - that she must guard with her life.

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