I visited Saudi Arabia recently and fell in love with the people and the land. Upon returning home a friend suggested I read an old and tattered copy of Laurie Devine's book "Saudi". My friend, who has lived in the Gulf region for years, referred to the book as "one of my treasures". And so it was - a treasure. I want to know more about Laurie Devine. How did Devine learn about Saudi? How can these details be given without having actually experienced them? Devine seems to have met Saudi Arabia and fallen in love as well; and, like all love stories, learned the not-so-becoming and even painful facets of a passionate relationship. Devine must have known Gulf Arab students while studying in the US (or the UK). Devine captures the essence of the spoiled and angry male, and the beauty, passion, tenderness and fullness of love of the Saudi people.
Sunny Shannon is a naive young American woman, looking for the strong male figure her absent father represents for her. She is looking for the romance that seems to lie just beyond her reach, romance of a land her father seems to love more than her. And so the story pivots around Sunny and her father Tom - each seeking escape, without fully recognizing how they are being drawn into the other's world.
Devine sheds light on historical aspects of the oil industry, American complicity, control and abuse, and the intricacies of a too much maligned culture. Devine weaves a story that takes the reader through a labyrinth of emotion, and provides some interesting insights into political handholding.
This is much more than a story of love between an American woman and a Saudi man. It is a story about the love of a culture. The only criticism I have is that the love of the Saudi man and the American woman felt a bit like a "bodice ripper" towards the end, and the bittersweet taste of love of the culture was burdened down by what seemed to be a never ending "are we going to get together or not" lingering of Sunny and her man. The final moments couldn't come soon enough, and sadly proved to be predicable. But up to those last few pages, the reader is carried on an emotionally fulfilling and thought provoking journey.