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America for Beginners: A Novel
by Leah Franqui

Published: 2018-07-24
Hardcover : 320 pages
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Recalling contemporary classics such as Americanah, Behold the Dreamers, and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, a funny, poignant, and insightful debut novel that explores the complexities of family, immigration, prejudice, and the American Dream through meaningful and unlikely ...

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Introduction

Recalling contemporary classics such as Americanah, Behold the Dreamers, and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, a funny, poignant, and insightful debut novel that explores the complexities of family, immigration, prejudice, and the American Dream through meaningful and unlikely friendships forged in unusual circumstances.

Pival Sengupta has done something she never expected: she has booked a trip with the First Class India USA Destination Vacation Tour Company. But unlike other upper-class Indians on a foreign holiday, the recently widowed Pival is not interested in sightseeing. She is traveling thousands of miles from Kolkata to New York on a cross-country journey to California, where she hopes to uncover the truth about her beloved son, Rahi. A year ago Rahi devastated his very traditional parents when he told them he was gay. Then, Pival’s husband, Ram, told her that their son had died suddenly—heartbreaking news she still refuses to accept. Now, with Ram gone, she is going to America to find Rahi, alive and whole or dead and gone, and come to terms with her own life.

Arriving in New York, the tour proves to be more complicated than anticipated. Planned by the company’s indefatigable owner, Ronnie Munshi—a hard-working immigrant and entrepreneur hungry for his own taste of the American dream—it is a work of haphazard improvisation. Pival’s guide is the company’s new hire, the guileless and wonderfully resourceful Satya, who has been in America for one year—and has never actually left the five boroughs. For modesty’s sake Pival and Satya will be accompanied by Rebecca Elliot, an aspiring young actress. Eager for a paying gig, she’s along for the ride, because how hard can a two-week "working" vacation traveling across America be?

Slowly making her way from coast to coast with her unlikely companions, Pival finds that her understanding of her son—and her hopes of a reunion with him—are challenged by her growing knowledge of his adoptive country. As the bonds between this odd trio deepens, Pival, Satya, and Rebecca learn to see America—and themselves—in different and profound new ways.

A bittersweet and bighearted tale of forgiveness, hope, and acceptance, America for Beginners illuminates the unexpected enchantments life can hold, and reminds us that our most precious connections aren’t always the ones we seek.

Editorial Review

An Amazon Best Book of July 2018: America for Beginners is a road trip novel that follows an unlikely trio of characters as they travel across the United States together, and it’s everything you would want it to be: funny, heartwarming, sad and illuminating. Pival Sengupta, a wealthy Indian widow, has never left Kolkata, but upon her husband’s death she decides to travel to America to find out the truth about her estranged son, Rahi, whom she and her husband abandoned when they learned he was gay. Satya is her tour guide, a young Bangladeshi immigrant, and Rebecca is her female companion (for propriety sake), a sprite young American woman trying to make it as an actress. Though they couldn’t be more different, the three form an enduring bond as they travel from New York to Niagara Falls, New Orleans and finally to California—all the while learning from one another about the different ways to view the world and to experience it. Throughout the novel, Leah Franqui explores the power of heartbreak, family, and what it means to move on—from a loved one, a country and the past. America for Beginners is absorbing and alive and will make you laugh, cry and think about what it means to belong. —Al Woodworth

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