At the heart of Meg Mullins's debut novel is one of the most touchingly believable characters in recent fiction, a gentle soul in the body of an Iranian exile in New York. Ushman Khan sells exquisite hand-woven rugs to a wealthy clientele that he treats with perfect rectitude. He is lonely, and his loneliness becomes unbearable when he learns that his wife in Iran is leaving him. But when a young woman named Stella comes into his store, what ensues is a love story that is all the more moving because its protagonists understand tragedy. The Rug Merchant will sweep readers away with its inspiring, character-rich tale about shaking free from disappointment and finding connection and acceptance in whatever form they appear.
New York City teems with quiet desperation in this lucidly written but languid debut novel. The titular carpet salesman, Ushman Khan, has left his mother and his wife, Farak, in Iran in order to make a new start in America. Told from Khan's perspective, the narrative traces his subtle acculturation into Western life while he sets up shop and develops loyal customers like the wealthy socialite Mrs. Roberts. He plans for his wife to join him, but learns that she has divorced him for a Turkish salesman. Crushed, Ushman buys plane tickets to Paris he will never use and finds temporary, self-loathing comfort in a prostitute. Only when he meets Stella, a Barnard freshman, does he begin to see a way out of his isolation. Like him, Stella is an outsider struggling with loss and looking for connection, but Ushman must first resolve his conflicted feelings about women and sex and American culture. Originally developed as a short story that appeared in The Best American Short Stories 2002, this melancholy novel droops under the weight of a sympathetic but tentative, passive protagonist who can find no real solution to his profound alienation. (Mar.)
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June 26, 2007
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