The Rug Merchant By Meg Mullins
A few days after reading this novel I was sitting comfortably in the arrivals area of Pearson International Airport, waiting to meet my husband. I saw that his flight had landed; I had a clear view of the doors into the arrivals hall, so I sat casually people watching. A young couple with an infant held my attention as they waited as close to the doors as possible–they had been there since I first sat down. Finally, an elderly couple came through the doors–the father hugged his daughter and then his son-in-law, and the mother hugged, and held and kissed her daughter. And I was moved to tears.
I tried to discreetly mop up my eyes–feeling exceedingly foolish–and sat with a smile on my face watching less emotional reunions, and thought, ‘ What a happy place to spend some time.’ I should do it more often just for the feel good fix it provides.
I realized this was exactly what was happening in the novel I had just finished. Ushman Khan is watching passengers arrive at La Guardia, but in his case he is only pretending that his wife is going to arrive. Although he knows that she is not, he has not yet accepted that fact.
Ushman is also people watching and his attention is held by a young woman, a blonde, healthy, beautiful, all-American girl. The girl, Stella, has just seen her parents off on a second honeymoon trip to Venice. She is just lounging in the airport, lost in thought, until she notices Ushman watching her. They cannot help but smile when they notice that they are observing each other, and this most unlikely relationship begins.
Ushman is a rug merchant, selling very expensive Persian carpets to the residents of upper Manhattan. His plan had been to establish himself in America and be joined by his wife from Iran. It is just as his plans have been destroyed that Stella enters his life.
Is truth stranger than fiction? This is fiction but it feels like truth because it is the honesty of these two people who make this most unlikely of relationships unique–a lonely immigrant and a young, inexperienced American college student–people of very different worlds and experience who find they are able to share their most private of thoughts.
It is a lovely story, as friendship develops into love–the honesty of two people who truly want to be understood, who care for each other and the other people in their lives, as the griefs and joys of life are questioned, acknowledged and embraced.