A Caravan of Brides: A Novel of Saudi Arabia
By Kay Hardy Campbell
2017, Loon Cove Press, 9-780-99907-430-5, $14.99 pb.
Reviewed by Arthur Clark on November 15, 2017
Kay Hardy Campbell takes full advantage of her experiences as an Arabic-speaking journalist in Jiddah in the late 1970s and early ‘80s to tell a prescient story within a story about evolving Saudi society. Beginning in 1978, she provides an insider’s look at the kingdom through the eyes of a young Saudi just returned from college in Lebanon. While navigating wildly different cultural mores, and losing a sister in the takeover of the Sacred Mosque in Makkah in 1979, she meets an elderly “shepherdess” leading her flock along a quiet Jiddah byway. The woman describes her flight from a bad marriage in 1917 across the Nafud Desert in northern Arabia, finally leading a group of Armenian orphans to safety in a “Caravan of Brides.” Notably, the book—published before the decree giving women the right to drive in Saudi Arabia this year—concludes in 2019 with the heroine, now teaching girls at university, steering her car through Jiddah traffic.