America for Beginners

America for Beginners

3.93 (2,717 ratings by Goodreads)
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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 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.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 320 pages
  • 160 x 231 x 23mm | 454g
  • English
  • 0062668757
  • 9780062668752
  • 1,463,708

Back cover copy

By turns funny, insightful, poignant, and unexpected, this mesmerizing debut novel deftly explores the complexities of family, prejudice, immigration . . . and America

When the recently widowed Pival Sengupta of Kolkata books a trip with the First Class India USA Destination Vacation Tour Company, she's not planning a sightseeing extravaganza typical of upper-class Indian tourists. Her mission on this, her first trip overseas, is to find out the truth about her adored but estranged son, Rahi, who had been living in California. Rahi had only recently come out as gay--devastating news to his very traditional parents--when Pival's husband received a phone call saying Rahi had died suddenly. Or had he?

The tour itself, planned by indefatigable tour company owner Ronnie Munshi, is a work of haphazard improvisation. Ronnie has claimed his slice of the American dream and built a successful business catering to affluent Indian visitors, even if he's not entirely forthcoming with certain details, like the fact that he and his staff are from Bangladesh, not India (a distinction that makes a world of difference to Bangladeshis--and Indians). The guide Ronnie selects for Pival's cross-country trip is an earnest rookie named Satya, who arrived in New York only a year earlier and has never actually left the five boroughs. But Satya is respectful and resourceful, and Ronnie feels sure that if he can just find the right female chaperone to accompany them on the tour--for modesty's sake--his rich lady client is sure to get her money's worth. Enter Rebecca Elliot, a twentysomething aspiring actress whose career isn't quite taking off. Accompanying Satya and Pival will pay more than she's made in months. How hard can it be?

As this unlikely trio travels the United States, making their way to Los Angeles and, Pival hopes, a reunion with her son, her growing knowledge of his adoptive country challenges everything she thought she knew about him. As her relationships with Satya and Rebecca evolve from client and guides to something closer, all three learn to see America in different, and more profound, ways than they anticipated.
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Review quote

"A satisfying, heartfelt novel... Franqui adroitly balances all the characters, making them distinct and refreshing. Readers will be taken by this emotionally rewarding novel."--Publishers Weekly
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Rating details

2,717 ratings
3.93 out of 5 stars
5 26% (695)
4 48% (1,302)
3 22% (604)
2 3% (87)
1 1% (29)
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