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.
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.