Saturday 6 October 2018

America for Beginners by Leah Franqui

America for BeginnersAmerica for Beginners by Leah Franqui
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Time Taken to read - 4 days

Pages - 320

Publisher - Harper Collins

Source - Review Copy

Blurb from Goodreads

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 Kolkota 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.

My Review

Meet Pival, stuck in Kolkota, in a home of ritches and so so alone. Her husband has died and left her with servants who don't respect her and unable to make herself a cup of tea if she wished, it must all be through the servants. All Pival wants is to know if it is true, is her son alive or dead in New York? Pival books a trip against everyones advice, she will be accompanied by Satya the tour guide and a paid companion Rebecca. The unlikely trio make the journey together, for them Pival just wants to see America, for Pival it is all about her son.

Before the actual journey and trio meet we get to know the three and who they are, what is going on in their lives and just how very different they are and their lives. Pival is such a lovely lady but has been stifled in her husband's shadow and ruling, now he is gone she needs to rediscover herself and the truth about her son. The chapters flick between the characters and we visit a young homosexual couple who have their own struggles, both individually and as they try to be together and explore their love. Satya comes from nothing, we follow his friendship and background and what brings him to the job he gets which puts him in the path to meet Pival. And lastly young Rebecca, an aspiring actress, she has her own demons and wee follow how fate gets her the opportunity to meet Pival and how the three come together for the second half of the book.

The story is one I am glad I was sent as I may passed this one in the store and that would have been a big miss. There is so much of this tale, for all of the characters go on journey where they are exposed to people they wouldn't normally be. It shapes who they are, their thought process and they all go on a journey of personal growth as well as an actual travelling trip.

I also liked the parts where we follow Pival's journey from her India to America, she has never left there and whilst it doesn't cover a huge part of the book (later part of the story before she actually gets out of India) I liked it. The story delves into so many issues, humanity, culture, personal issues, coping with being gay, a woman trying to find her place once she gets out of the controlling life she has led are just some of the topics. I think Franqui chewed off a lot in tackling this and for me I got to learn a bit about life for Pival, dealing with sexuality, struggling with trying to be an actress, poverty, survival and travel when you have never left your very sheltered life. It is an interesting story and emotive in parts, whilst it did take me a while to settle into it and get used to the characters I did enjoy it. 3.5/5 for me, first dance with this author and I will look out for anything else she brings out.

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  1. I enjoyed your reading the synopsis and your review, Lainy. This is a new to me book with an enticing title.

    Have a terrific weekend! I've posted after a hiatus and hope you will stop by. :)

  2. Great review. This sounds very good. Books that mix cultures are inevitably interesting. As you point out, it sounds like the author has grapplled with a lot in this book. I think that a good writer can handle such complexity.


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