What is the summary of the short story "Sandpiper" by Ahdaf Soueif?

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Payal Khullar | College Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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Ahdaf Soueif’s Sandpiper sheds light on the challenges of a cross-cultural marriage. The story is focused on a European woman (the narrator) who marries a man from Egypt. As we know, Europe is culturally very different from Egypt. The women's unfamiliarity with the language, cultural beliefs, customs, etc. of the new land destructs her relationship with her husband. We come to know that early days of her marriage were very peaceful and filled with love, but gradually the problems of adjustment to the new cultural environment started cropping up. 

The story is set during summer time at her husband’s native place, i.e. Egypt. We see, while the women's husband and her daughter spend good time at the beach, she sits in solitude and consumes herself in pensiveness. She tells the readers how she met her husband and how their love culminated into marriage (through flashbacks). Remembering all this, she mainly regrets her past decisions. She realises that her marriage is failing because she is alien to the land as well as to the type of challenges she is facing there. For example, she is accustomed to western thoughts like “women independence” since childhood. But this thing is seen altogether in a different light in Egypt. The poor woman finds it difficult to deal with even simple things like shopping because she can’t read price tags. She is not only frustrated because of her inability to adapt to the new place, but also because she feels her marriage is growing loveless as her husband now gets irritated with her unfamiliarity and foreignness. Although she feels unhappy and trapped, she keeps dragging the weight of the relationship because of her young daughter, who, she knows, needs both her parents at this stage. She decides to wait for her daughter to grow older and become more independent, as it will be easier for her to separate from her husband after that.

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