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.
The Newlyweds is a surprising, suspenseful story about the exhilarations - and real-life complications - of getting, and staying, married. It stretches across continents, generations, and plains of emotion. What has always set Nell Freudenberger apart is the sly, gimlet eye she turns on collisions of all kinds - sexual, cultural, familial. With The Newlyweds, she has found her perfect subject for that vision, and characters to match. She reveals Amina's heart and mind, capturing both her new American reality and the home she cannot forget, with seamless authenticity, empathy, and grace. At once revelatory and affecting, The Newlyweds is a stunning achievement.
She hadn't heard the mailman, but Amina decided to go out and check. Just in case. If anyone saw her, they would know that there was someone in the house now during the day while George was at work. They would watch Amina hurrying coatless to the mailbox, still wearing her bedroom slippers, and would conclude that this was her home. She had come to stay.
The mailbox was new. She had ordered it herself with George's credit card, from mailboxes.com, and she had not chosen the cheapest one. George had said that they needed something sturdy, and so Amina had turned off the Deshi part of her brain and ordered the heavy-duty rural model, in glossy black, for $90. She had not done the conversion into taka, and when it arrived, wrapped in plastic, surrounded by Styrofoam chips, and carefully tucked into its corrugated cardboard box - a box that most Americans would simply throw away but that Amina could not help storing in the basement, in a growing pile behind George's Bowflex - she had...
Readers expecting an exotic story set in a foreign locale won't find it in The Newlyweds. But those looking for a beautiful narration of one woman's gradual coming of age (think Nazneen in Monica Ali's Brick Lane) will love Freudenberger's novel. Despite her foreignness and her circumstance, Amina is an everywoman - forging ahead in life, making the best choices she can while figuring out how to live with their consequences: some good, some bad, all hers to own.
(Reviewed by Poornima Apte).
Full Review (1088 words).
In The Newlyweds, when Amina returns home to Bangladesh, her mother picks up a box of freshly-made sondesh from a reputed vendor to bring to Amina's aunt.
Bangladesh shares the Bengali language with the Indian state of West Bengal. Bengali sweets (mishti) are famous all over South Asia and sondesh is particularly well-known. Like most other Bengali sweets, sondesh is a milk-based treat made from fresh cheese (paneer).
The word sondesh (or sandesh, as it is spelled in the rest of South Asia) is both singular and plural and means "messages." The sweets, it is said, got their name because the dry confections were often sent along with the bearers of good news.
According to a paper presented at the Oxford Symposium on Food ...
If you liked The Newlyweds, try these:
Set against the backdrop of the Bangladesh War of Independence, A Golden Age is a story of passion and revolution, of hope, faith and unexpected heroism. The first volume in a planned trilogy.
Asunder is a rich, resonant novel of beguiling depths and beautiful strangeness, exploring the delicate balance between creation and destruction, control and surrender.
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