Monday, April 23, 2012

The Newlyweds- Nell Freudenberger

The Newlyweds

Nell Freudenberger

Knopf, May 1 2012, $25.95

ISBN: 9780307268846

Twenty-something Amina Mazid (from Bangladesh) and thirtyish George Stillman (of Upstate New York) meet on She wants to escape the prison of her family while he wants a woman who does not play emotional games; they agree to marry. Amina comes to snowy Rochester in 2005 and struggles to adapt to her new home. They marry; she obtains a green card and attends college classes while also working at a nearby Starbucks. She finds an understanding friend in his cousin Kim.

However her three years with George are not perfect as their sex is unsatisfying, George becomes an unemployed engineer and she is upset that they still have not had that Muslim marriage he promised her. When she learns a dark secret that he hid from her, George agrees for Amina to go home to bring her parents to the states, but her father’s visa application is delayed. While she waits for approval, Amina finds herself back in the family melodrama that led to her fleeing to America while her former Bangladeshi beau Nasir aggressively demands she stay home with him.

This is an intriguing look at a young woman caught between her old world culture and her new world lifestyle. Amina is superb as she somewhat assimilates to the American way of life but never quite overcomes a quarter of a century nurturing that emphasized the obedience expected of females even when assaulted. George never quite comes into focus so that the heroine’s fish out of water in Rochester never quite gels as much as her time in Bangladesh. Still The Newlyweds is an engaging contemporary tale of cross cultures pulling a modern day woman in opposite directions.

Harriet Klausner

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