The Newlyweds

Nell Freudenberger. Knopf, $25.95 (344p) ISBN 978-0-307-26884-6
Freudenberger’s delicately observed second novel is another account of cross-cultural confusion in the tale of a Bangladeshi woman, 24-year-old Amina Mazid, who becomes the e-mail–order bride of 34-year-old George Stillman, an electrical engineer in Rochester, N.Y. Arriving in snowy Rochester in 2005 is a culture shock for Amina, but within three years she has her green card, is married to George, and is taking college courses when not pulling espresso at Starbucks. Her marriage, though, has its problems. Sex is awkward, George loses his job, and Amina discovers something that makes her doubt his sincerity. She eventually returns to Bangladesh to bring her parents to the U.S., but a problem with her father’s visa keeps Amina there and forces her back into the morass of her extended family’s resentments and petty jealousies, all of which she’d hoped to escape in marriage. Add to her troubles an old suitor, Nasir, waiting not so patiently in the wings. Freudenberger (The Dissident) does an excellent job of portraying the plight of a young Muslim woman not totally comfortable in either of the worlds she inhabits. But Amina’s passivity may frustrate many readers, and George is a complete cipher. In the end, Freudenberg’s anatomy of a modern arranged marriage is somewhat too dependent on cultural clichés to entirely satisfy. Agent: Amanda Urban, ICM. (May)
Reviewed on: 03/05/2012
Release date: 05/01/2012
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