The Newlyweds – Nell Freudenberger

I read about this novel somewhere – can’t remember where now – and added to my list (I use Evernote to keep track of all sorts of things – it is on my phone, ipad and desktop and syncs between all of them how brilliant is that?). I found it at The Lane book store, which is such a lovely book store I aways try to buy something from them.

Anyway, here is the blurb …

From one of America’s most dazzling talents (“Young writers as ambitious–and as good–as Nell Freudenberger give us reason for hope.” –The New York Times Book Review) comes a cross-continental love story: a brilliantly observed, warmly engaging novel about the exhilarations–and complications–of getting, and staying, wed.

Amina Mazid is twenty-four when she leaves Bangladesh for Rochester, New York, and for George Stillman, the husband who met and wooed her online. It’s a twenty-first-century romance that echoes ancient traditions–the arranged marriages of her home country. And though George falls for Amina because she is “straightforward” and doesn’t “play games,” each is hiding something from the other. Amina struggles to find her place in America–as a Muslim woman, an aspiring teacher, a wife with her own desires. But it is only when they put an ocean between them that Amina and George will discover whether they have a future–or if their secrets will tear them apart. Traveling from American suburbs to the cities of South Asia, The Newlyweds is a tour de force–a novel as rich with misunderstandings as it is with unlikely connections.

 First, I know nothing about Bangladesh, so I found the bits about that fascinating. I had no idea it fought a war of independence with Pakistan or even that it was a Muslim country. If pressed, I would have thought it was more like India.

I found the idea of an arranged marriage interesting and I can see that for Amina and her family it provided a means of escape from poverty and the promise of a new life, but I am not sure what  George saw in it. The parts about settling into a new environment were well-written. I can’t imagine the culture shock Amina must have felt – everything is different including the weather!

I found the last third less convincing or more accurately it seemed like another story. Amina returns to Bangladesh to arrange for her parents to emigrate to America. While there an old relationship is reignited and her parents are involved in an old family squabble that turns nasty. To me it didn’t seem a ‘good fit’ for the first part of the story. It was still interesting and full of lots of social colour and detail, but something about it disappointed me.

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