Jessica's Reviews > The Newlyweds

The Newlyweds by Nell Freudenberger
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May 30, 2012

it was ok
bookshelves: 2012-reads, book-club
Read from June 18 to 23, 2012

** spoiler alert ** I didn't love this book and I didn't hate it. The only character I really liked was Amina, but as the book progressed I liked her less and less. At the beginning of the novel, her biggest virtue is that she was a woman who was practical and who didn't play games. George was drawn to her for this reason and she even criticized the girls she knew who were always playing games with men. Unfortunately, as the story progressed she seemed to become a game-player, culminating in her wildly imagining up a girl who didn't exist, and then actually trying to physically track her down (supposedly for Nasir). I can't decide if the author was suggesting that people can be practical and straight-forward when they're not in love but the moment they realize they're in love they start acting crazy.

One problem I had with the novel was that it was so sporadic. I think she was trying to create two different realities to mirror how Amina thought about Rochester-Amina versus Bangladesh-Amina, but merely setting the novel in two different countries and focusing on the cultural differences would've sat better with me than what Freudenberger actually did. She decided to throw in weird incest on the Rochester side (cousins, people! I realize they weren't biologically related, but still...) and on the Bangladesh side there was a story-line I didn't completely follow about a deranged cousin and a lot of acid-throwing. I just thought these aspects of the plot were very contrived.

On the other hand, I appreciated that in the end Amina decided to go back to George. Not only was it a nice sacrifice for the benefit of her parents, it also was a demonstration that the right thing isn't always the easiest thing. Many stories tell us that it's okay to blow off your marriage if you find someone you like better, and that it's okay, especially if you already knew and loved the person or if your family had once discussed a match between you. I kind of expected Amina to choose Nasir, so I was pleasantly surprised when I got to the end and saw that she decided to choose her marriage instead. (Although, she was married to a man who had been in love with his cousin and gotten her pregnant... that was one aspect that made me kind of hope she would decide to go with Nasir, but anyway.)

I guess the novel just left me with a lot of conflicted emotions. Maybe that was the point. Life is not neat and tidy... nor is usually as messy as the situations in this novel... but maybe the point of the novel is that life is complicated. Overall I thought the writing was lovely. I liked the lay-out (present action interspersed with memories of the past to fill in the story) and I thought the book was easy to read. I thought it was very eloquent how Freudenberger organized the novel. I had a bit of a hard time with some of the Bangla words and being unfamiliar with the geography of Bangladesh made it hard to follow along sometimes, but nothing a little Google Maps can't fix. I would like to check out Freudenberger's earlier writings and I am interested to see what she gives us in the future.
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06/18/2012 page 59
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