Sunday, May 14, 2006

The Rug Merchant

by Meg Mullins (read May 2006)
Sometimes while reading a book, I have mixed feelings about it--wishing I was reading something else, maybe. Then when I finish and think back on it I begin to enjoy it more and am glad I read it. The Rug Merchant was that type of book for me. I don't think I would encourage anyone to read it, however, because there are books with better storylines, more compelling characters and more masterful use of language that will provide better entertainment and/or increase in understanding/knowledge.

Ushman Khan left his wife Farak and his mother in Iran after a devastating earthquake revealed the danger of living there. For three years he has been selling rugs from Tabriz to wealthy clients. But his dream of bringing Farak to America is shattered when he learns that she is pregnant (after five previous miscarriages with him) by another man and wants to move with him to Istanbul. All of this happens just when Ushman is ready to make a sale of a $30,000 rug to Mrs. Roberts, his beset client. However, after learning that Farak wants to divorce him, he impulsively gives the rug away on the street and watches it being thrown in a garbage truck.
Totally distraught, Ushman goes to the airport and is transfixed by a girl sitting in a waiting area. Although he has never been attracted to American women, there is something about this blond that is appealing — perhaps it's the length and curve of her neck. Or that she seems to gazing at him. This also is something out of the ordinary since in America Ushman feels that he is viewed not as a man but as "a curiosity, an oddity, a foreigner."

Stella is a 19-year-old college student who was raised in the South and attends Barnard. It is her birthday, and they go out to talk. No one has ever paid so much attention to Ushman and he is buoyed by her energy and vitality. It is a while before they connect again, but one day Stella shows up at this shop in deep pain. She has just learned that her mother tried to commit suicide while on vacation with her husband in Italy. Ushman provides a shoulder for her to cry upon and they draw closer together. But his own special brew of anger, grief, and shame about Farak works its way into mind and will not let him totally enjoy this new romance.