Book Recommendation: The Newlyweds
Choice is a funny thing. The choices we make — to love, to leave — are unpredictable in their ability to transform us. To me, Nell Freudenberger’s The Newlyweds is not a story about immigration and escape so much as it is about how we are defined by choice, whether we like it or not.
(Click photos to enlarge.)
Like Amina Mazid, who signs up for an international matrimonial site with her sights set on getting herself and her parents out of Bangladesh.
Like George Stillman, the upstate New Yorker drawn to Amina’s practicality despite their physical and digital separation, who marries her to fill a void.
Like Amina’s father, who can’t help but sign up for new business ventures despite a pathetic track record and an inability to assess risk.
Like Amina’s mother, whose superstitious visions drive her to the brink of insanity, but who sends her daughter across the world with hopes of security.
Like Kim, George’s mysterious cousin, who takes a liking to Amina but who can’t help but plant seeds of doubt and darkness.
Like Nasir, Amina’s childhood crush, whose preachy, unexpected emails leave much unsaid, yet unsettle and excite her.
For the newlyweds, the initial choice seemed simple. They would marry and Amina would move to Rochester. Then she would find work and take classes. After three years, she would sponsor her parents for immigration to the United States. If only it were that easy.
Though they had no real honeymoon, the newlyweds’ grace period is barely over when a network of secrets underpinning the present begins to emerge. As choices from the past transform and revisit their makers, Amina and George’s future is thrown into a tailspin. Through all this, Freudenberger explores culture, language, sex and relationships. Despite being an American, her telling of a Bangladeshi immigrant’s confusion and struggle is effective because it is more than the sum of its parts. The details are squishy at times, sometimes just missing the mark of authenticity, but the world Freudenberger creates is vibrant and believable.
Relationships with others, ourselves and our homes are complicated. That’s why we break up, why we question our decisions, why we change cities (or countries) in search of a fresh start. Amidst all the confusion, though, there exists a simple truth: Our choices, big and small, are inescapable.
Intrigued? Try the curried cauliflower pita pockets inspired by The Newlyweds.
Source: I received this book as a free ARC from NetGalley.