Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Review: America for Beginners by Leah Franqui

Travel broadens the mind and the heart. When you venture out from your own home, whether within your own country or further afield, you not only encounter people who are different from you, but you also see the similarities, the universalities with people who might once have seemed profoundly unlike you. These realizations can change people unimaginably, alter their beliefs and help them see themselves as citizens of a kinder, wider world. In Leah Franqui's novel America for Beginners, her main characters all open their hearts and minds in ways they could never have envisioned when their cross country tour started.

Pival is newly widowed and wealthy. She spent many years of her marriage obeying her husband, making his life comfortable, keeping up appearances, and never (overtly) questioning his edicts about their life. She has felt trapped for too long. Now that Ram is gone, she decides that she is going to leave India and go on a tour of the United States. She's going to find out if it is true that her beloved only son Rahi is dead. Ram had declared him dead when Rahi came out as gay to his parents, disowning the young man completely and requiring Pival to disown him as well, but she knew he wasn't dead, at least not then. Then came a long distance phone call to Ram that confirmed Rahi's death. But she's never been sure if the phone call was true or not and she's determined to find out. She plans to travel the US, seeing sights and slowly making her way to California to the address where Rahi and his partner lived, to find out the truth about his life, love, and his untimely death, and finally to die herself. She does not share her purpose and intentions with tour company owner Ronnie, new guide Satya, or Rebecca, the American unemployed actress hired as a companion to accompany Pival for propriety's sake.

Pival is a wonderful character, having endured an unhappy marriage, now having the chance to come into her own and take charge of her own life. She is burdened by regret and grief, not for her late husband but for her beloved son, her reason for living. While her journey, physically and emotionally, takes center stage here, there are other journeys of the heart and head paralleling Pival's and highlighting the differences and hurts that arise amongst families and friends. Jake, Rahi's partner, is not on the cross country odyssey with Pival but he is also on an emotional journey, grieving his partner and blaming and loathing the parents who could hurt Rahi (also known as Bhim) so badly simply for being himself. The narration focuses on four characters, Pival, Jake, Satya, and Rebecca, giving each of them an extensive backstory, setting them up for their own emotional journeys. The book brims with emotion, sadness and comedy both. The stops on the tour are just tiny pieces of the puzzle that is the US, just as each of the characters is one part of a larger whole of humanity but they, country and characters, are parts that it was wonderful to spend time exploring. The book itself is not so much about the road trip and the sights the characters see as it is about self-discovery and cracking open your own heart, seeing past prejudice and recognizing our commonality. This is a big-hearted, funny, and affecting book about love and grief and regret and hope. It was also a selection for the 2018 Great Group Reads list put out by the Women's National Book Association for National Reading Group Month so it would be perfect for reading and discussing in a book club.

For more information about Leah Franqui and the book, check our her author website, like her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter or Instagram, look at the book's Goodreads page, follow the rest of the blog tour, or look at the reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours and publisher William Morrow for inspiring me to finally write a review.

1 comment:

  1. Ooh... this sounds like such a good book! I can't wait to get to this one. Thank you for being on this tour. Sara @ TLC Book Tours


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