I have to say I am not usually the audience for contemporary love stories. I’m too hard hearted and bitter to be objective—it’s a pitiful story. BUT. I was looking forward to reading The Newlyweds by Nell Freudenberger anyway. I have never tried her short stories, Lucky Girls, but I was a big fan of her novel, The Dissident. And. I completely heart the cover on The Newlyweds, magnificent.
The Newlyweds is the story of Amina, 24, and George, 34. Amina is a native of Bangladesh and George is an American living in Rochester when the meet via the internet. The stars align and the fall in love. Both of them are searching for something other than what they have known and they seem to find it in each other.
Freudenberger has used the internet’s potential to bring anyone together to write this novel about a modern day mail order bride and mail order groom. It’s funny to think that this method of connection is so common now. How did that happen in such a short time? Freudenberger makes good use of juxtaposing Amina and George’s similarities and differences, especially with Amina. Her longing for change parallels her homesickness very nicely. Also the struggle with a bond built in cyberspace verses the real, absolute bonds built over a lifetime.
The great strength of the novel is that despite cultural differences and family interference the trials and tribulations of Amina and George are not operatic. They are most impressively natural and everyday even including the Bangladesh angle. While Amina’s immigration and culture add to the complexity and tension of the couple’s relationship, not to mention the interest level for the reader, it is an important element of their relationship not the sole focus of it. The problems brought on by sex, work and family and equally important.
The weakness in this story is George. Unfortunate considering this is a two character tale with George being character #2. He is not as fully fleshed out as Amina and consequently not as engaging. Freudenberger has not given him any kind of a backstory or emotional pull that can compete with Amina’s.
If I view The Newlyweds as strictly Amina’s story I like it much better than if I think of it as a novel about a couple. Maybe that makes the whole thing unsuccessful? Maybe but I did enjoy following Amina’s journey.