If you could travel to any place, what would be the one destination in America that you’d want to visit?
In America for Beginners, sometimes you need to go a long way, before you actually find what you are looking for.
Pival has left India, the only place in the world that she has ever known, to take a trip to America. Widowed and alone, but very wealthy, she enlists quite the cast of characters to take her on a cross country tour.
The First Class India USA Destination Vacation Tour Company, hilariously named, mostly because it is ran by a man from Bangladesh, his brand new tour guide (also from Bangladesh), and a struggling NYC actress who takes the job as a “companion” on a whim, take Pival on the ultimate road trip from NYC to CA.
But what they don’t know is that Pival has a hidden agenda. Her son came out to his parents many years ago, and things did not go well. Now that her husband is gone, she is in search of answers as to what became of her son since he fled to America all those years ago.
The relationships that build along the trip are so fun and heartwarming, and the story is full of a lot of emotion and humor. There are quite a few highly entertaining episodes as cultural differences clash and I found myself laughing out loud at some of the absurd sayings and slang we have here that must be so confusing to those of other countries.
Although Pival is not from America and the culture is so very different, it was so very much relatable still as she finds herself, builds her confidence in an entirely foreign country, faces a host of familiar familial issues, and builds some very surprising friendships.
An incredible debut. Highly recommend. Now out in paperback!
Thank you to TLC Book Tours (partner) William Morrow Books and Leah Franqui for the opportunity to read this gorgeous story!
- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (July 30, 2019)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0062668765
- ISBN-13: 978-0062668769
About the book:
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.
Leah Franqui is a graduate of Yale University and received an MFA at NYU-Tisch. She is a playwright and the recipient of the 2013 Goldberg Playwriting Award, and also wrote a web series for which she received the Alfred Sloan Foundation Screenwriting award (aftereverafterwebseries.com). A Puerto Rican-Jewish Philadelphia native, Franqui lives with her Kolkata-born husband in Mumbai. AMERICA FOR BEGINNERS is her first novel.