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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Groom to Have Been by Saher Alam

I did not love this book, but ever since I finished it I cannot stop thinking about it, so there is something to this that bears attention. The book is written from a male perspective, and is about a first generation Indian-Canadian Muslim's attempt to follow mostly in the footsteps of his parent's traditions in the meeting and courting of his future wife. The book has the same push me-pull you qualities that Jumpa Lahiri's book 'The Namesake' describes for first generation immigrants. They are pulled between what is acceptable for their family of origins culture and the prevailing culture. There are clear advantages and disadvantages of each, and no clear path between the two to take. In Lahiri's book, there is no winning. Gogol tries several paths and is never able to find the perfect fit. Here, Nasr is terribly torn between a woman he has fallen in love with (who is also out of reach, because of her traditional pathways) and a woman he is engaged to. The book explores the nature of marriage--what constitutes a relationship that will last over decades. And does so within a cultural context that parents know best. I am not sure that I buy it, but it is food for thought.

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