Summary and book reviews of The Rug Merchant by Meg Mullins

The Rug Merchant

by Meg Mullins

The Rug Merchant
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2006, 272 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2007, 272 pages

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Book Summary

A sparkling debut novel about an unlikely romance between an Iranian immigrant and an American college student.

Isolated and far from his native Iran, Ushman Khan has worked hard to build a wealthy, reliable clientele for his wares: exquisite hand-woven rugs from his home city of Tabriz.

With perfect rectitude, he caters to clients like New York’s Upper East Side grand dame Mrs. Roberts, who plies him for stories about his exotic origins and culture to feed her own imagination. But like many immigrants, he’s living only half a life. He dreams of the day his beloved wife, Farak, will be able to join him in New York and complete his vision of the American dream. But when she tells him that she is leaving him for another man, Ushman is shattered. He begins to wander aimlessly through the terminals of JFK Airport, imagining a now-impossible reunion with Farak.

Unexpectedly, he meets Stella, a Barnard College student who has just bade farewell to her parents en route for an Italian vacation. After Stella, isolated in her own way, finds herself at Ushman’s Manhattan store, they embark on an improbable and powerful romance. Together this American girl from the Deep South and the Iranian aesthete form a tender bond that awakens them both to the possibility of joy in a world full of tragedy.

Chapter 10

He cannot believe that it's true, but she is actually standing there at six o'clock, on the corner of Broadway and 116th Street, wearing an orange woolen poncho and baggy jeans. She has headphones covering her ears and she's bouncing to the beat. For a moment Ushman hesitates. There is no possible connection he could have to this girl. They did not learn the same songs as children, she does not know how the banks of the Talkheh become awash with color from the rising or setting sun. In her heart is the memory of a different landscape. She is from a different world; her trajectory, even momentarily, could never mirror his own.

Against his better judgment, he stops and lifts his hand from the steering wheel in recognition. When she climbs in and smiles as she pulls off her headphones, he reminds his cynical self how nice she smells. Her eyes are welcoming, familiar. She is not a stranger. No more ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
Ushman Khan is a long way from home. In New York City, he is a world apart from his beloved wife, Farak, and his ailing mother, whose spine was crushed by an earthquake that killed 35,000 Iranians and changed their lives forever. Life in New York is indeed different and lonely, yet Ushman is determined to be successful, to sell the beautiful rugs that Farak sends him and earn enough money to have his family join him to start a new and prosperous American life.

And, indeed, Ushman is a success, for not only does he prove himself to be a good businessman, but his customers find his expert knowledge of his carpets and their origins an attractive selling point. He has one especially loyal customer, Mrs...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

At first glance a romance between an Iranian immigrant and an American college student almost half his age might lead the reader to expect shades of Lolita - but that is far from the case. What Mullins offers in her low key first novel is a lovely, melancholy story about shaking free from disappointment and finding connection and acceptance in whatever form they appear.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

Full Review Members Only (370 words).

Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly

This melancholy novel droops under the weight of a sympathetic but tentative, passive protagonist who can find no real solution to his profound alienation.

Booklist - Deborah Donovan

Ushman lingers in the reader's mind--a wounded soul, comfortable in his "routine of solitary misery," who is able to transcend sorrow, however fleetingly.

Library Journal - Kellie Gillespie

Quiet and unassuming, this debut is as rich as the hand-woven rugs Ushman sells, with colorful descriptions and complex characters that provide a rewarding study in contrasts between the joy of love and the pain of vulnerability.

Author Blurb Rene Steinke, author of Holy Skirts, finalist for the 2005 National Book Award in fiction
The Rug Merchant is a moving, intelligent portrait of the immigrant Ushman's double life, and the absorbing story of a love affair brimming with surprises. Mullins' writing is incisive and emotionally acute---a beautiful debut.

Author Blurb Aurelie Sheehan,author of The Anxiety of Everyday Objects and History Lessons For Girls
Meg Mullins has written a moving, crystalline tale of love, reminiscent of E.M. Forster. Her prose is precise, nuanced, and vivid. I was enchanted and intrigued with this tale from the beginning, and found myself pondering its intricacies long after I'd put the book down.

Reader Reviews

tabby's mom

Worth reading
This is a lovely story. It's very readable and the characters are well developed. Anyone who has felt isolated will understand the main character's pain. There is a subtle humour threaded throughout the work.

Robin

good story, okay book.
This book was a great story with well thought out issues and complex emotions. It was a great story but a poor book. What I mean by this is that the story was intriguing, but the stylistics and quality of the literature were minimal in quality.

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Beyond the Book

Meg Mullins was born and raised in New Mexico, where she now lives with her husband and their two children.  The story that formed the basis of The Rug Merchant appeared in The Best American Short Stories 2002.

About Tabriz
Ushman is from Tabriz, which is the capital of the Iranian province of Eastern Azarbaaijaan.  it looks like a beautiful place - mild summers make it a popular summer vacation spot for those escaping the heat of the south, and it's a popular winter sports destination due to the proximity of snow filled mountains.&...

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