One of the reasons I love audio books is that I’m often more willing to invest time in an book I’ve never heard of if I’m going to listen to it than if I’m going to hold it in my hands and read it. On paper, I simply have too many books that I know I want to read, but with cds, I’m constrained by what our beautiful, small local library offers.
I’ve found some truly great reads this way – The Trylle Trilogy by Amanda Hocking, the Rita Mae and Sneaky Pie Brown mysteries, and The Hemingses of Monticello by Annette Gordon Reed. So I wasn’t surprised when Nell Freudenberger’s The Newlyweds turned out to be really lovely.
The book tells the story of Amina, a young woman from Bangladesh who meets George, an American online, and moves to the U.S. to marry him. After she arrives, she finds that her expectations of when her parents will join them, where they will live, and how they will interact with her and her husband are very different than his. There’s also a love triangle and some betrayal involved, but it was the cultural element of this book that most intrigued me.
Freudenberger must have done a great deal of research on Bangladesh for this book since it sprung from a conversation she had on a plane with a Bangladeshi woman coming to the states to marry. If I did not know that Freudenberger was born and raised in the States, I might have thought she had emigrated from Bangladesh herself. While I don’t know very much about Bangladesh at all, woefully, I found her depiction of the culture, the place, and the people to read as authentic. Additionally, I very much enjoyed the complexity of Amina’s character – her sweetness coupled with a strength and determination that leaves her open to taking dark actions and making less savory choices that we might wish for someone who seems so innocent.
In terms of the writing, I was really swept in during the second half of the book, when Amina returns to Bangladesh. There’s a richness there that is missing in the first half, where I kept wanting to get a firmer look at George so that I could understand whether or not I liked him. Of course, there is a realness to that depiction as well, but it was the descriptions and emotional vitality of the plot and relationships in the second half that drew me in fully.
I recommend this book to any writer interested in studying plot pacing and the building of complex characters. It’s also a great read for anyone with interests in cross-cultural relationships, immigration/emigration, and Bangladesh. AND it makes a great listen, too.
Have you read The Newlyweds? If so, what did you think of it? What other books might you recommend that I read to get more of a cross-cultural perspective on the world?
Each Friday, I’ll be writing about books I’ve been reading as part of the Super Summer Reading Program. You’ll find all the details about prizes and how to participate at the link, and I hope you’ll join us.