Nell Freudenberger’s “An Arranged Marriage”
The New Yorker Fiction: 20 Under 40
September 6, 2010 issue

This is one of the stories that I was most anticipating, and perhaps that’s contributed to my feeling a bit disappointed on having finished it.

You know how sometimes, imperceptibly, you work up an idea about a story, and you can’t help but feel a little betrayed when it doesn’t coincide with the reality of the story?

Well, Nell Freudenberger is definitely not to be held responsible for my expectations: they’re mine.

But I was hoping for something else in “An Arranged Marriage”. Which, perhaps, is suitable, because the main character’s expectations have been let down a little too.

From the moment of Amina’s arrival, when she sees the cornfield near her fiancee’s home, she fears that things have been misrepresented somehow. And even though rationally she knows that the cornfield does not represent trickery — she is living near civilization, near Rochester, New York, no matter how rural this unexpected sight might appear — it’s only one element that takes her aback.

Amina’s story is certainly interesting, and Nell Freudenberger creates a plausible backstory for this arranged marriage, but ultimately I didn’t feel a connection with the story.

It’s not that it’s poorly written. The structure is solid and all the important elements are present and accounted for: the story has all its working parts.

But, for me, it felt like an arranged story.

If that’s what the author intended, then this was a reading success after all.

It won’t put me off reading something else — I’ve had a copy of Lucky Girls for awhile now and I’ve picked up The Dissident many times — but this wasn’t one of my favourite stories in this series.

Have you tried Nell Freudenberger’s ficton? Here’s her Q&A and there’s a link to her story there as well.