THE NEWLYWEDS by Nell Freudenberger


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Freudenberger (The Dissident, 2006, etc.) examines a marriage arranged via the Internet.

They met on Amina wanted to escape from her family’s straitened circumstances in Bangladesh; George wanted someone who “did not play games, unlike some women he knew.” So here she is, in the fall of 2005 in the suburbs of Rochester, N.Y., recently married, working in retail while she studies for a teaching certificate. Her husband seems nice, if a little fussy, but he hasn’t said any more about converting to Islam as she promised her parents, and they haven’t had a Muslim wedding yet either. More disconcerting than any of that, though, is Amina’s sense that “she was a different person in Bangla than she was in English,” and she’s uncertain how to bridge the gulf between these two selves. She makes a much-needed friend in George’s cousin Kim, who lived for a while in Bombay and was briefly married to an Indian. Kim understands more about Amina’s background and her conflicts than anyone else in Rochester, so when it turns out that she and George have been hiding something important from Amina, it’s doubly shattering. However, it does prompt George to agree to bring Amina’s parents to America, and she goes to collect them in Bangladesh, where several old family conflicts flare anew. Freudenberger does well in capturing the off-kilter feelings of a young woman in a country so unlike her birthplace, and the cultural differences prompt some enjoyably wry humor. The characters are all well drawn, if a trifle pallid, which points to a larger problem. Freudenberger’s tone is detached and cool throughout, even when violent incidents are described, which makes it difficult to emotionally engage with the story. The novel is carefully researched rather than emotionally persuasive.

Well executed but a bit too obviously studied—more willed than felt.

Pub Date: May 1st, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-307-26884-6
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 2012


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