The Rug Merchant by Meg Mullins Penguin, HK$112 Pacing counts for much in The Rug Merchant, a story that takes its time in the telling but rarely meanders into finger-tapping territory. Centred on Ushman Khan, an Iranian living in Manhattan, it's a nuanced examination of love and loss: three years ago Khan left behind his wife, Farak, who uses his ailing mother as an excuse for refusing to move to the US. But there's another reason for her reluctance to join him. After five pregnancies to her husband that all ended in miscarriages, she's now bearing the child of another man, and this time it looks as though she'll become a mother. To console himself, Khan goes to the airport to watch couples reuniting - imagining how Farak might step off a plane into his arms. There he meets Stella, a beautiful, confident university student with whom he begins an unlikely affair. Author Meg Mullins compares their relationship with one Khan develops with a wealthy customer, Mrs Roberts, who amuses herself by buying not only his Persian rugs but also the culture and stories behind the items. Although shallow, she's compassionate and the two become true friends. Mullins wrote The Rug Merchant originally as a short story. Its long-format version is worth the extra words.