America for Beginners ~ Leah Franqui

America for Beginners

Rating: 2/5

I wanted to like this book, really I did. This book was a flop, and I think it was mostly due to the pacing and the overall tone of all of the characters.

Franqui’s novel is one about a Bengali widow who takes a cross country road trip to discover what drew her dead son away from her.She is recently widowed and seeking to discover what she wants to do with the rest of her life.

These are messy, imperfect characters. This may be something that many readers are drawn to, but I can also see it being a major drawback. I didn’t like any of them, from the widow, to the tour guide, to the companion, and many of the others they interacted with. in fact, the only person I did enjoy was the mapmaker, who unfortunately did not play a large role in the story at all.

For all three of the main characters, these two weeks turn out to be the best two weeks they have had in a long time, possibly ever in their lives. The reason being is that they begin to feel connected to one another, predictably. Instead of remaining isolated in their roles, the begin to cross boundaries and get to know one another better than they had expected, which reminds them of their values and leads them to question their lifestyle choices. This element was unfortunately predictable, but also a redeeming quality of this book.

The pacing was another major drawback for me. In the beginning, as the author was jumping around to introduce different characters, I had very little buy-in with the characters as I didn’t understand how they all related to each other. It felt rather choppy and difficult to understand their motivations and qualities. This was indicative of the rest of the story, as the scenes continued to be choppy and at times confusing and unexpected. Although I suppose that is how much of life is, so perhaps that was the author’s intention. Regardless, this aspect was definitely a miss for me.

The abundant situations of racism/sexism/homophobia were also messy, as I believe the author was trying to make them feel realistic in that people’s beliefs and values are messy. However, these were all rather uncomfortable often without resolution or deeper commentary to help me feel better about the storyline as a reader. I kept holding out hope that there would be more to it, but there was not.

Rebecca’s storyline felt almost white-saviory, which I’m sure was not the author’s intention, but continued to make me feel weird about the plot. There was a bit more commentary on it from the other characters’ perspectives, but nothing was ever said explicitly about it. Up to the reader to make their own decisions about it, I suppose.

In the end, I would not recommend this book. It felt overall too disappointing.

I received a copy of this book via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

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