Rummanah Aasi
    The Newlyweds is an intimate view of a relationship, facing the usual communication issues, not helped by secrets and a cultural divide. I had high hopes for this book but ultimately I felt underwhelmed and disappointed after I finished it.

Description: From Bangladesh, Amina and her doting, complicated parents pin their hopes for their future on the marriage she has arranged with George in Rochester, who she meets on an online dating site geared towards east Asians and their North American suitors. This is a sweet, quiet little story about two people moving across nations to be together and carrying with them the baggage, desires, and secrets of two people moving across the world to be together.

Review: In her latest novel, Freudenberger examines a marriage arranged via the Internet as well as cross-cultural confusion and missed opportunities. Amina and George met on and get married. For Amina the marriage to George is an escape from her family's straitened circumstances in Bangladesh and a bright opportunity in the "Eden-like" America. For George, the marriage is way to wade his way out of "games" that women played.
 Arriving in snowy Rochester in 2005 is a culture shock for Amina, but within three years she makes the best of her situation. She gets her green card, is married to George, and is taking college courses when not making espressos at Starbucks. Her focus is changed from making a life for herself to bringing her parents to America. Things seem to be moving at a progressing speed, except for her marriage. Sex and intimacy is awkward, Amina's faith seems to falter and ebb away due to George's reaction, 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, still thinks there's a chance for a relationship between he and Amina.
  The Newlyweds is a quiet book that takes its time in unfolding the marriage and various relationships surrounding Amina and George. Normally this would be okay since analyzing these relationships would allow the author to explore each character, however, I didn't really find any of the characters to be interesting. I felt a kinship between Amina and myself since we are from similar cultural backgrounds, but she doesn't stray very far from the stereotypical passive Indian Subcontinent woman. Unlike Amina, I had no frame of reference for George. I could not have conjured an image of him in my mind nor did I really feel like I got to know him. For a main character, he is very flat, boring, and relentlessly whiny. The only reason why I kept reading The Newlyweds is to discover the big secret that George is harboring from Amina, but that too seems very anticlimactic.
 Though Freudenberger does well in capturing the off-kilter feelings of a young woman in a country so unlike her birthplace and seems to be well informed of the Bangladeshi culture, there is a real lack of spice and emotion in her story. The cultural differences in the first half of the novel does prompt some enjoyably wry humor, but aside from that there is no warmth from its characters. 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 somewhat too dependent on cultural cliches and remains on the superficial level to entirely satisfy.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language and sexual situations. Recommended for older teens and adults only.

If you like this book try: In the Kingdom of Men by Kim Barnes, The Law of Similars by Chris Bohjalian
3 Responses
  1. Well, the whole arranged marriage over the internet was an interesting concept but I hate to read that you didnt' care about the characters, that is a big issue for me as well, If I don't like them, I don't care what happens to them :(

  2. Although I like the incorporation of Bangladeshi culture, I'll probably skip this one, Rummanah. The theme is a bit more mature than what I generally read and the characters just don't seem very interesting.

  3. The idea of an arranged marriage is very foreign to me, but it's also very intiguing. There was so much potential in this one, so many ways to make this story fascinating, and I'm sorry it kind of fell flat. The clash of two cultures alone could have been sufficient to make this book more than interesting.
    Great review!

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