‘America for Beginners’ Should Be Required Reading for Everyone [REVIEW]

Road trip

A classic road trip becomes more than just a journey across the country in Leah Franqui’s America for Beginners. (Photo by Pok Rie on Pexels.com)

Soon after her husband’s death, and much to everyone’s dismay, a woman does the unthinkable: she leaves her homeland behind and travels to the United States to discover the truth regarding questions her deceased spouse would never answer. But will she like the answers she receives? Find out in Leah Franqui’s debut novel, America for Beginners.


William Morrow

Pival Sengupta is a wealthy woman living in Kolkata, especially after her husband Ram’s death. By all outward appearances, she has everything an Indian woman could want: a palatial home, plenty of servants, and the finest clothes and jewels available. None of that means anything to her, however. Because the only thing she wants is to find out the truth about her son, Rahi.

Last thing Pival knew was that Rahi moved to California to make his own life, something Ram didn’t agree with. Then, before she even had time to wrap her mind around this news, Ram delivered the worst news a mother could hear. He told her that their son had suddenly died, news that she has never been fully able to process, partly because she doesn’t believe Rahi is actually dead.

Now that Ram is gone too, Pival books a trip a flight to New York where she will begin a cross-country road trip to California to find her beloved son, or to at least discover what actually happened to him. But like so many well-intentioned trips go, things don’t quite go as planned once Pival arrives in the States. First of all, her tour guide, Satya, is a new hire at the travel company, only immigrated to America a year ago, and has never even left New York, let alone traveled all the way to the West Coast. Then there’s Rebecca, an aspiring young actress who joins Pival’s adventure as a paid companion. But even she has never explored her own country.

Together, this odd trio sets out to explore the US as they travel from sea to shining sea, never imagining just how close they will become, what insights they will garner about Rahi’s adoptive country, and just how much they will grow as individuals as they experience the vast melting pot that is America.

Although this is Leah Franqui’s first novel, it reads as if she’s been writing for decades. Her prose is crisp and fresh, insightful and candid, and simply a joy to read. She captures the struggles of each of her characters with devoted pathos and plenty of heart, even though they are flawed, or at the very least, misguided in their ambitions. Yet Franqui also finds the joy and humor in their travails, and out of these springs forth emotional growth, thus infusing the classic road-trip novel with new life and delivering a satisfying arc that will leave readers smiling.

For all of us who have ever felt like fish out of water or been strangers in a strange land, this novel will hit home, make us laugh out loud, and will sometimes even bring us to tears. That is what makes America for Beginners the perfect novel for our time, though. In a time when the nation doesn’t seem to know what to do with immigrants and can’t seem to decide whether to judge them, embrace them, or simply reject them, this book opens our hearts and our minds to see just how similar we all are, no matter where we come from, or how different our upbringings may have been. Franqui reminds us not only to celebrate these differences, but to focus on all the ways in which we are the same, and how doing so strengthens us as a people and unites us as one human family.

America for Beginners should be required reading for every American, whether they’re freshly enrolled in a citizenship class or whose family has been on these shores for centuries. This is an excellent reminder of why our diversity is our greatest strength. Enjoy!

Leah Franqui

Leah Franqui
(Photo by Priyam Dhar)


Leah Franqui is a playwright and the recipient of the Goldberg Playwriting Award and the Alfred Sloan Foundation Screenwriting Award.

A graduate of Yale University, she earned an MFU at NYU–Tisch School of the Arts.

Franqui is a Puerto Rican–Jewish native of Philadelphia, and now lives with her call Kolkata-born husband in Mumbai. America for Beginners is her first novel.

Visit her home on the Web at LeahFranqui.com, like her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

By Leah Franqui
320 pgs. William Morrow. $26.99

TLC Book Tours Tour HostPurchase America for Beginners at one of these fine online retailers: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, HarperCollins, IndieBound, and Powell’s.

America for Beginners is brought to you in association with TLC Book Tours.

About Jathan Fink
Jathan is a journalist, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. He is also a travel junkie, foodie and jazz aficionado. A California native, he resides in Texas.

One Response to ‘America for Beginners’ Should Be Required Reading for Everyone [REVIEW]

  1. Thanks for being on the tour!

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