Excerpt from The Newlyweds by Nell Freudenberger, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Newlyweds

A Novel

by Nell Freudenberger

The Newlyweds
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  • First Published:
    May 2012, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2013, 352 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Poornima Apte

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1

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 taken pleasure in its size and solidity. She showed George the detachable red flag that you could move up or down to indicate whether you had letters for collection.

"That wasn't even in the picture," she told him. "It just came with it, free."

The old mailbox had been bashed in by thugs. The first time had been right after Amina arrived from Bangladesh, one Thursday night in March. George had left for work on Friday morning, but he hadn't gotten even as far as his car when he came back through the kitchen door, uncharacteristically furious.

"Goddamn thugs. Potheads. Smoking weed and destroying private property. And the police don't do a fucking thing."

"Thugs are here? In Pittsford?" She couldn't understand it, and that made him angrier.

"Thugs! Vandals. Hooligans - whatever you want to call them. Uneducated pieces of human garbage." Then he went down to the basement to get his tools, because you had to take the mailbox off its post and repair the damage right away. If the thugs saw that you hadn't fixed it, that was an invitation.

The flag was still raised, and when she double-checked, sticking her hand all the way into its black depths, there was only the stack of bills George had left on his way to work. The thugs did not actually steal the mail, and so her green card, which was supposed to arrive this month, would have been safe even if she could have forgotten to check. "Thugs" had a different meaning in America, and that was why she'd been confused. George had been talking about kids, troublemakers from East Rochester High, while Amina had been thinking of dacoits: bandits who haunted the highways and made it unsafe to take the bus. She had lived in Rochester six months now - long enough to know that there were no bandits on Pittsford roads at night.

American English was different from the language she'd learned at Maple Leaf International in Dhaka, but she was lucky because George corrected her and kept her from making embarrassing mistakes. Americans always went to the bathroom, never the loo. They did not live in flats or stow anything in the boot of the car, and under no circumstances did they ever pop outside to smoke a fag. Maple Leaf was where she first learned to use the computer, and the computer was how she met George, a thirty-four-year-old SWM who was looking for a wife. George had explained to her that he had always wanted to get married. He had dated women in Rochester, but often found them silly, and had such a strong aversion to perfume that he couldn't sit across the table from a woman who was wearing it. George's cousin Kim had called him "picky," and had suggested that he might have better luck on the Internet, where he could clarify his requirements from the beginning.

George told Amina that he had been waiting for a special connection. He was a romantic, and he didn't want to compromise on just anyone. It wasn't until his colleague Ed told him that he'd met his wife, Min, on AsianEuro.com that he had thought of trying that particular site. When he had received the first e-mail from Amina, he said that he'd "had a feeling." When Amina asked what had given him the feeling, he said that she was "straightforward" and that she did not play games, unlike some women he knew. Which women were those, she had asked, but George said he was talking about women he'd known a long time ago, when he was in college.

Excerpted from The Newlyweds by Nell Freudenberger. Copyright © 2012 by Nell Freudenberger. Excerpted by permission of Knopf. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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