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, Pavil, Satya, and Rebecca learn to see America—and themselves—in different and profound new ways.
“My mother is the reason that I love you, Bhim said simply. She is the reason I know what love is.”
Leah Franqui, America for Beginners
America for Beginners was a wonderful, quirky and heartwarming novel. And can we just admire the gorgeous book cover for a moment? I think it is simply beautiful! This debut novel featured three interesting (and completely different) individuals taking the road trip of their lives — together. Their cross-country trip and ventures across the United States were at times discouraging and at other times quite humorous and heartfelt. I fell in love with Mrs. Sengupta (Pival), Satya, and Rebecca and could honestly picture myself being friends with them. Each character was searching for their place and purpose in the world and by the end of the novel, it felt they were closer to it. I enjoyed Franqui’s whimsical writing, especially how she weaved the different culture and traditions of the main characters in a unique and engaging way. I also agree with other readers that it would make a great movie.
Thank you to William Morrow, LibraryThing, and Edelweiss for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.