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America for Beginners

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  5,204 ratings  ·  880 reviews
Recalling contemporary classics such as 'Americanah, Behold the Dreamers', and 'The Brief and 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 nev
ebook, 320 pages
Published July 24th 2018 by William Morrow
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Julia Kardon They are both Bangladeshi. They grew up in Sylhet, and are both Bangladeshi war babies, grandchildren of Bangladeshi women raped by the members of the…moreThey are both Bangladeshi. They grew up in Sylhet, and are both Bangladeshi war babies, grandchildren of Bangladeshi women raped by the members of the Pakistani army. Satya is Hindu, part of the minority in Bangladesh, and Ravi is Muslim. (less)

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Average rating 3.90  · 
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 ·  5,204 ratings  ·  880 reviews

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Jul 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4 stars
This is a fictional story of Pival Sengupta, a wealthy widow from Kolkata, India. Her husband Ram has been dead for several months and she decides to go to the United States, ostensibly to take a guided tour, but in reality to find out if her gay son Rahi is alive or dead. When he came out to his parents, his father disowned him and forbade him from all future contact. Ram received a phone call shortly after Rahi announced that he was gay. Ram told Pival that Rahi was dead. But she never
Diane S ☔
Jul 19, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lor-2019
Yes!! I made it out of Las Vegas. Kind of an inside joke, with apologies to those who loved The Goldfinch, but I always say when referring to that book that I never made it out of Vegas. That's where I laid that book aside.

Pival from Kolkata is going to America to try to find her son. Told by her husband after her son's sexual orientation was revealed, that he was dead. Now her husband is the one who is dead and Pival, for once is going to find out the truth. Three unlikely characters will find
Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
Aug 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
An original and charming story. ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Pival Sengupta lives in India, and she is recently widowed. A year prior, her son, Rahi, told his parents he was gay and fled for California. Before he died, Pival’s husband told her that their son had died.

Pival packs her bags and heads to the United States for a cross-country tour to find out about her son. She forges an unlikely friendship with her tour guide, Satya, and Rebecca, the aspiring actress who is accompanying them on the trip for modesty.
DJ Sakata
Favorite Quotes:

They had raised Rebecca with strong assurances that she could be anything she wanted to be, and then, like so many American parents, were surprised and dismayed when she believed them.

He ate ravenously at every meal, piling on plate after plate of rice and patting his nonexistent stomach after the waiters politely told him, as they had at each place, that he couldn’t have any more of the buffet, because had exceeded what they had imagined “all you can eat" could possibly mean.

Sep 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
America for Beginners is an extraordinary debut by Leah Franqui. Once I finished the book, it gave me a tremendous sense of lightness and hope. It is something I wanted from a book for a while as I struggle to find a sense of hope from the world nowadays. After so many authors telling me what is wrong with the world and humanity, it warmed my heart to read something that told what was beautiful about humanity.

In a world where nations and society are constantly looking inwards, America for Begin
When I saw this book featured on Goodreads and read the summary, I thought I would enjoy the book. As I read the first few chapters and realized that one of the main characters is a Hindu Bangladeshi Bengali from Sylhet, like myself, I was even more excited to keep reading. I’ve never read a book that had such a character. Usually a book has a Bangladeshi character, they are Muslim since the country’s population is 90% Muslim. But as I kept reading, it was obvious that the author has no idea abo ...more
Jul 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recently widowed Pival Sengupta is 60 and has never left Kolkata. Her late husband Ram had told her that their son Rahi died in Los Angeles but Pavil never really accepted the news and now she is planning her first trip ever to find out the truth for herself. Rosni (Ronnie) Munshi owns a travel agency in New York that books tours for Indian and Pakistani tourists. He is from Bangladesh, a fact that he tries to hide from his clients. Pavil pays for a two week tour of America and requests both a p ...more
I loved the premise, but found the execution a bit lacking. I enjoy multiple narrators and non-Anglo points of view, but the promise of the road trip didn't happen until more than halfway into the narrative. I would have enjoyed this book much more had I spent more time with the Bengali widow, she was the only character whose internal journey mattered to me and who ultimately won me over to three stars. ...more
Jun 14, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
[3.5] I love the the title America for Beginners because it encapsulates this novel's promise. Three people from disparate backgrounds take a road trip across the US. At the center is a widow from India on a quest to "find" her gay, disowned son. Ultimately, I was disappointed - the novel is too neatly tied up at the end and too many loose ends along the way. I wavered between 3 and 4 stars but am rounding up because it was mostly fun to read. ...more
Apr 03, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: arc
I gave this book my sincere attention for around 30 pages before it started losing my interest. It was at this point that I realized why, after a while, the pages started feeling so laborious to get through. The summary, which describes the story as being about a woman traveling across America? It takes a third of the book for Pival to even get there (that's around 100 pages). Apparently it was very important that the story switch POV between 5 different characters and that you know their backst ...more
America for Beginners is the first novel written by Leah Franqui. It has many fine points, but also some disappointments along the way. The book is billed as a travel story where Pival Sangupta, recently widowed, is visiting America from India to find her estranged son. Before we get to traveling, however, the reader has to endure 110 pages of backstory on the many characters who would contribute to this journey. I kept saying ‘enough’, let’s get to the traveling. I did enjoy the tour and how th ...more
Mansi Kabra
Aug 20, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I don't write reviews so a book has to be very special for me to write something more than few words and most of this is blabber and most of the times i give authors benefit of doubt that may be they didn't want to portray whatever they portrayed in such a way but I guess this time I am not doing any such thing.

Everything wrong with America for Beginners by Leah Franqui.
(Yes I am writing all the wrongs, as many people have already written about what they liked about this book so I am not spendin
Mar 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What a curious and complex cast of characters Leah Frangui created for her debut novel. A wealthy but naive widow from Kolkata with a Bangladeshi immigrant posing as an Indian tour guide and a feisty down-and-out actress as companion lead the troupe in their (and the reader's vicarious) journey across the USA. Add to these the voices of the vividly drawn supporting characters and there emerges a narrative that is compelling in its humor and its pathos. At some scenes I laughed out loud; at other ...more
Jul 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Although I read my fair share of immigrant novels, it's been a long while since I've read a good road trip novel. This unique book is both those things plus a little bit more ... sexual identity, acceptance, grief, culture.

It's certainly an odd mix of characters ... Indian widow, new immigrant from Bangladesh, out-of-work actress, gay lovers in varying stages of acceptance and travel agent owner. But somehow it all works together. It was just good storytelling.
Martha Bullen
Jan 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the book I needed right now. It was a terrific way to travel vicariously while cooped up inside during a recent cold spell, and it offered a heart-warming portrait of three diverse, complex characters who became unlikely traveling companions.

I was charmed by the main character, Pival Sengupta, from the first page. I sympathized with her desire to flee her suffocating home in Kolkata after her husband’s death and, daringly, travel solo to America for a cross-country trip in search of her
Kate Olson
Jul 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Thanks to William Morrow and TLC Book Tours for this free review copy!
What a heartwarming and eye opening view of the US from an foreigner's perspective ~ I learned so much about my own country during the course of this novel, as well as about India and Bangladesh. AMERICA FOR BEGINNERS brings us an Indian widow learning to be alone and coming to terms with her son's sexuality and her own former classist/homophobic beliefs, all during a whirlwind trip across the US with a motley pair of traveli
This is a feel-good, totally heart-warming, smiling inducing read and I gobbled it all up!

In America for Beginners we meet Pival Sengupta who is from India. She recently lost her husband. She decided to do something that is totally outside of her comfort zone- that is, book a trip to the USA to do a cross-country tour. Pival hopes to find out the truth about her son, Rahi who was banished from her home after her husband Ram, found out he was gay.

Pival books her cross-country tour through a to
Julia Kardon
Jan 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Pival Sengupta has never left Kolkata when she books a trip to America with an Indian travel company, but nothing in this road trip novel is exactly what it seems. Starting with the trip, which has a Bangladeshi, not Indian guide, and a female chaperone who is a young American actress. But also Pival, who is not on the trip to see America, but is hoping to find her son, who might be dead and whom the family cut off after he came out as gay. This novel has so much empathy for all of its character ...more
Mar 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What an appealing book. Three unique and sympathetic characters take a trip across America with multicultural confusions and prejudices that are slowly overcome by compassion and friendship. A pleasure to read.
Kate Vocke (bookapotamus)
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, hilar
Sep 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018-reads
The synopsis of this novel immediately pulled me in. It took me a while to finish, and at times I found my thoughts wandering, but I absolutely loved reading it. America for Beginners follows the lives of three diverse strangers who find themselves bound together. Pival is a recent widow who plans to visit the US with an Indian tour company. She is not just hoping to see the sights, but also discover the whereabouts of her estranged son. Satya is hired as her tour guide. He comes from Bangladesh ...more
Mar 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Wendy by: Goodreads Giveways
Stirring and touching, “America for Beginners” which I won through Goodreads Giveaways begins when recently widowed Pival Sengupta a Bengali woman who has never travelled outside her home in Kolkata takes a cross-country tour from New York City to California with her guide Satya Roy and female chaperone Rebecca Eliot. On a trip where she’s determined to find out whether her beloved son Rahi who was ostracized by his father after declaring he was gay is alive or dead, and to end her life, Pival u ...more
The storyline was a promising one, the character development fairly decent, and the author actually mentioned Rabindranath Tagore a couple of times - awesome! Tagore is the only Indian who has won a Nobel Prize in Literature. Tagore was born in Calcutta (now Kolkata) and won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913. These are what made me generous enough to give the book 2 stars. And now, for why a 2-star — wow, the characterization of Indians, Indian culture, Bangladesh and its people are so negat ...more
Sep 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nbtr
My rating for this book is around 3.5 (We really need the half star rating system on GR, Stat) well coming to the book this was a nice enough read I was really impressed about the writing about India and Bangladesh which Leah captured wonderfully and I am sure that being married to a Bengali guy really helped in this regard. Coming back to the book it's the story of three individuals who are thrown together when a widow from India Pival decides to travel to America on the pretext of traveling bu ...more
Jul 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Linda by: Book Browse
This is a rarity - two five-star reads in a row.
I love books that introduce me to different cultures and expose me to "problems" that I would not have thought a problem. In this case an Indian widow contacts a Bangaladeshi tourist coordinator who is living in the U.S. to set an itinerary for her first visit to the U.S. He hires another Bangaladeshi guide and a young struggling American actress to accompany her on her travels.
The misunderstandings among the experiences and customs of the three cu
Sep 01, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 3-star
Mini Review
A perfectly fine literary fiction debut. Nothing glaringly wrong with it, but nothing that particularly impressed me either. It’s quotable, but in a way that kind of feels like the author straight up telling the reader what the themes are. There’s a lot of info-dumping of backstory, which leaves the beginning of the story feeling stalled. However, the exploration of the intersection of culture and sexuality from multiple perspectives makes this book important and worth reading. 3
Sue Dix
Jul 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was not prepared for this jewel of a novel. I had no idea what this book was about as it unfolded over the coast to coast tour booked by a widow who had never been out of Kolkata, India. Although we are privy to her reason for taking this tour, it is abruptly revealed to her traveling companions and it changes the lives of everyone involved in unforeseen ways. The ending was truly lovely, there was laughter, and, yes, tears. Leah Franqui's writing is masterful. ...more
Feb 26, 2019 rated it liked it
3.5 stars, I recommend this one for sure!
This is, quite possibly, the best book I have read this year. It is about the many forms of loneliness. It is about things which hurt. It is about forgiving people. It is about being a stranger in a strange land, and being a stranger in a familiar land, and what to do when you are both at once. It is about characters who ask questions which hurt.
Pival is asking: Who am I when I am without the context of my family and my home?
Rachel is asking: Who am I if I am not what I have always dreamed of b
Jan 19, 2021 rated it liked it
3.5 stars. It's a compelling story with a lot of good bits to it but I had some issues staying focused on the story but that's a me thing and not the book. ...more
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