Except there's not much real love here. Nerdy mid-30s George wants a family. Ambitious late-20s Amina wants to escape Bangladesh for more opportunity. So their partnership is one of mutual benefit. But this is something they never discuss, after a year of email, an in-person visit, and then Amina's move to the U.S. (that's not a spoiler — that all happens early in the novel). Instead, the two pretend like they have traditional fairy-tale marriage, based on the rock solid foundation of love, devotion and trust.
The conflict of the novel comes when that trust goes away. George has been hiding a secret. Will the marriage survive?
So the main theme of The Newlyweds is the difficulties associated with cross-cultural marriage. Georgia and Amina's is the primary example, but we also learn about George's cousin Kim, who had a once-rocky marriage with an Indian guy name Ashok. And one of Amina's childhood friends, Nasir, originally a possible match for Amina herself, is now looking for a wife — but will his be an arranged marriage in Bangladeshi tradition or will he marry for love?
In addition to the meditation on marriage, Freudenberger gives us the "conflicted immigrant" theme, as well. Is Amina remaining true to her Bangladeshi roots by availing herself of American conveniences?
"She struggled to find some connection between the girl she so often imagined at home in her parents' apartment and this American wife, using the dishwasher and the washing machine, checking her email on the living room computer ... Sometimes she wondered whether the two girls would simply grow farther and farther apart, until one day they didn't even recognize each other."So, what did I think? I've wavered back and forth on a near-daily basis between "Loved it" and "It was okay – kind of interesting, but unsatisfying." If that seems strange, you're right, it is. There were parts when I was rooting like crazy for George and Amina to work. There were parts I just didn't care. There were too-obvious-to-the-point-of-silly symbols (like the cardinal on cover — he makes an appearance in the book, too). But there was also some really stunning, insightful writing about the trials and tribulations of relationships. So 3 stars — maybe because it wasn't really my thing, but it's not by any stretch a bad novel and other readers may have more luck with it than I did.