cover image America for Beginners

America for Beginners

Leah Franqui. Morrow, $26.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-06-266875-2

Franqui’s debut is a satisfying, heartfelt novel about three strangers whose lives are altered on a trip across the U.S. Widow Pival Sengupta is a quietly determined Bengali woman intent on leaving Kolkata for the first time to discover what really happened to her son, Rahi, in the U.S. After Rahi came out to his parents as gay nearly a year ago, Pival’s late husband told her Rahi died suddenly, but she refuses to believe it. Satya Roy is a young, inexperienced travel guide chosen by his boss to lead Pival on the First Class India USA Destination Vacation Tour under the guise of being Bengali, although he’s Bangladeshi. Rebecca Elliot is a young, struggling actress with poor impulse control who is also along on the tour. Satya pretends to be knowledgeable in Americana as the trio travel from New York across the country, and Satya and Rebecca are under the mistaken impression that Pival is fascinated by the tour stops, but she’s actually biding her time until they reach Los Angeles. Interspersed through the travels are chapters about Rahi and his relationship with his partner, Jacob. In this story of mistaken impressions, Franqui adroitly balances all the characters, making them distinct and refreshing. Readers will be taken by this emotionally rewarding novel. (July)