Meg Mullins’ The Rug Merchant
The Rug Merchant is based on a short story by the same name that appeared in the Iowa Review and was later anthologized in Best American Short Stories (2002). The delicate, subtle style that highlighted that work can frequently be found in the novel. But the long form also reveals shortcomings in the consistency of the narrator’s voice. In addition, Mullins appears to have trouble creating full lives for her characters. Although we hear that Ushman has a successful business, we never see him interact with any clients except Mrs. Roberts. He never chats with a neighbor, doesn’t meet any friends, doesn’t have any employees. Indeed, the only relationships he appears to have are those that serve the plot.
The Rug Merchant chronicles one man’s relationship with two very different women — one a friend, the other a lover — and the more successful rendering is the least romantic. Ushman’s friendship with Mrs. Roberts reveals a darker and affecting side to both of them, a touch that remains missing from the love affair with Stella. This imbalance makes the world that Mullins has created engaging, but not fully rewarding.
You can read it in full here.