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Some Brief Thoughts on Saher Alam’s The Groom To Have Been.

I recently read Saher Alam’s The Groom to Have Been which takes on as its literary forebear, Edith Warton’s The Age of Innocence. Before reading this novel, I loved The Age of Innocence. There was something so intriguing to me about the passionate unrequited love set in the American “Victorian” era where the mere exposure of a wrist was enough to elicit erotic tension. The innovative connection that Alam makes is that Muslim culture might find a double to Victorian era ideals, ones that make love for the sake of personal choice often an impossibility, especially after one is already married, or well on the way to being married. And yet, there characters of Alam’s novel live in an elite, upper class world, where there futures are never in doubt, at least financially. Their insularity and their conflicts only reach a gravitas in the post-9/11 context where their religious fervor cannot be nurtured so easily. Even with this complication, it is difficult to find much to sympathize with the self-involved protagonist, Nasr, who spends the entire novel seeking “true” love and I found myself wondering when the plot would pick up in pace. If Alam’s point was to denigrate Nasr’s solipsism, then I think she accomplished her task with aplomb, but I’m not exactly sure if that was the reading I was “supposed” to have. Regardless, I encourage anyone to read the book and most importantly, to buy it, as it does make an interesting case study in the development of South Asian American literature in the post-9/11 era.

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