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The Newlyweds

Cover of The Newlyweds

The Newlyweds

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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.

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.

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  • From the book

    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...

About the Author-
  • Nell Freudenberger is the author of the novel The Dissident and the story collection Lucky Girls, winner of the PEN/Malamud Award and the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters; both books were New York Times Book Review Notables. A recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Award, and a Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Fellowship from the New York Public Library, she was named one of Granta's Best Young American Novelists and one of The New Yorker's "20 Under 40." She lives in Brooklyn with her family.

Reviews-
  • AudioFile Magazine Online dating takes an international turn: Amina meets George through a dating site, and their exchanges eventually bring her from Bangladesh to Rochester, New York, to marry him. The development of their relationship in the face of cultural and personal difference creates the impetus for their story. Mozhan Marno offers understated inflections, and her use of nuanced and accented English is sparing and effective. While her brisk pace is well suited to this contemporary novel, her light tone makes the listening almost airy enough to disregard at times. Those who stay engaged will enjoy a solid summer listen. L.B.F. © AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine
  • The Economist

    "The beauty of The Newlyweds rests in its apparent simplicity. In clear, unfussy prose, this is the story of a marriage between two people who believe they can carve their own fate. Amina, a thoughtful Muslim woman, had always dreamed of escaping the deprivations of her life in Bangladesh. George, an engineer, was keen to settle down, yet he lacked any aptitude for the games of Western wooing. After an epistolary courtship via a dating website, the two get married and begin a life of slow mutual discovery. Within this straightforward arc lurk larger ideas: about love, destiny, choices, and the immigrant experience. Freudenberger's gifts as a writer are in spinning yarns that are engrossing and wise, with just enough suspense to build momentum. . . . She explores here the sharp contrasts and amusing discoveries of a world glimpsed through foreign eyes [and] with a light touch, conveys the gamble of choosing one's destiny."

  • Meredith Turits, Glamour "Beautiful . . . Strong. [This is] the story of a 24-year-old from Bangladesh who moves to Rochester, NY, to marry a man she met online for love. She's never left her home country, and only met her fiancé once--but to those around her, the fact that the marriage is unarranged is the oddest part. The story follows her assimilation into American culture, and her struggles with establishing her new home, culturally, religiously, psychologically and even sexually. The commentary on women in modern society, as well as their place overseas, will jolt you into thinking about gender roles, and the constant tension in discussions about marriage, both arranged and for love, is provocative. Most importantly, Freudenberger's narrative is also a discovery for her main character, Amina, of her own strength. Turns out that the process of writing The Newlyweds was one of evolution for the author, a busy mother and strong woman herself."
  • Jane Ciabattari, Los Angeles Times "Surprising . . . riveting. [The Newlyweds] succeeds based on Freudenberger's uncanny ability to feel her way inside Amina's skin as she takes courageous, self-sacrificing steps toward realizing her dream. Caught between two worlds, Amina begins to know herself and to understand the inevitable limits of her choices. . . . For all its global sophistication, the most remarkable accomplishment of this hugely satisfying novel is Freudenberger's subtle exploration of the stage of adulthood at the heart of The Newlyweds, and all the compromises with selfhood those early years of love and marriage entail."
  • Carmela Ciuraru, USA Today "A merging of lives, a collision of cultures--these themes are at the heart of Freudenberger's fine second novel . . . Amina Mazid 'meets' George Stillman on a dating website. He's 10 years older, looking to get married and start a family. She dreams of a better life in America. After nearly a year of corresponding online, George travels to Amina's home village to meet her family, and they become engaged. Yet both hide secrets that will complicate their relationship. By the following spring, they're living together in Rochester. Several aspects of Amina's new life prove puzzling: American megastores, such as WalMart and Bed, Bath and Beyond, overwhelm her. In conversation, she doesn't understand the concept of sarcasm. And she has no idea what a snooze button is. Yet Freudenberger doesn't simply trace cultural misunderstandings on an amusing or superficial level. She delves into more serious issues between Amina and George. . . .The Newlyweds crosses continents, cultures and generations. . . . It's funny, gracefully written and full of loneliness and yearning. It's also a candid, recognizable story about love--the real-life kind, which is often hard and sustained by hope, kindness, and pure effort."
  • Allison Williams, Time Out New York (four stars) "A lonely man in upstate New York decides that American women don't suit him, so he takes to the Internet. Half a world away in Bangladesh, a determined young woman posts an ad on a matchmaking site for Western men and Asian women. They're George and Amina,
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Nell Freudenberger
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