Book Review: The Newlyweds by Nell Freudenberger


Rating: 2.5/5

From the Publisher:

A powerful, funny, richly observed tour de force by one of America’s most acclaimed young writers: a story of love and marriage, secrets and betrayals, that takes us from the backyards of America to the back alleys and villages of Bangladesh.
In The Newlyweds, we follow the story of Amina Mazid, who at age twenty-four moves from Bangladesh to Rochester, New York, for love. A hundred years ago, Amina would have been called a mail-order bride. But this is an arranged marriage for the twenty-first century: Amina is wooed by—and woos—George Stillman online.
For Amina, George offers a chance for a new life and a different kind of happiness than she might find back home. For George, Amina is a woman who doesn’t play games. But each of them is hiding something: someone from the past they thought they could leave behind. It is only when they put an ocean between them—and Amina returns to Bangladesh—that she and George find out if their secrets will tear them apart, or if they can build a future together. 

In The Newlyweds Freudenberger weaves the challenges of cross-culture relationships.  I liked the inner struggle Amina faced between the person she was in Bangladesh and the person she became when she moved to America.  This novel was also a great look at the influence of culture and parental involvement in their children’s life.  While I enjoyed most of the book, I think the last quarter of it just fell apart.  I did not understand her attempt to meddle in Nasir’s personal life, and for someone who went through what she went through, not to mention the fact that she is in her late 20s, it seemed extremely immature and uncharacteristic.  In short, I thought that conflict felt random and forced upon by the author.  The start was great, but it just slowly tapered off as the novel progressed.

Another reason I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I had hoped was because for all the complexities with Amina, George ended up being one dimensional.  George should have been a main player, yet I couldn’t figure out the basic premise of why he even chose Amina.  What made her so special, other than the fact that she was available when he was looking for someone?

Overall, while I enjoyed the premise of the novel, I think it fell flat.  Fredenberger hits the nail on the head with respect to the difficulties of cross cultural relationships, and the divergent views of caring for elderly parents while maintaining a relationship with a spouse.  But this is not a book that will stick with me and I felt that some parts could have been more developed while other events left out.

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