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America for Beginners

A Novel
Narrated by: Soneela Nankani
Length: 10 hrs and 49 mins
Categories: Fiction, Literary
4.5 out of 5 stars (338 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

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 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 hardworking immigrant and entrepreneur hungry for his own taste of the American dream - it is a work of haphazard improvisation. Pavil’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.

©2018 Leah Franqui (P)2018 HarperCollins Publishers

Editorial Review

A charming tale of travel and transformation

This is, quite possibly, one of the best books I’ve listened to so far this year. On the surface, it’s about unlikely travel companions on a tour across the country, but the real story is in the quiet transformations the characters undergo while learning about themselves and one another. Together, they confront their respective burdens of loss, repression, unfulfilled dreams, intercultural and intergenerational conflict, and ignorance of the world beyond their own little corner. And yet, for all their baggage, the narrative remains light, airy, and optimistic—as does Soneela Nankani’s narration. Looking for a vacation listen with substance to travel with this summer? This is the one. —Lavina K., Audible Editor

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Nice story, but...

The internal monologues - which are the majority of the story - were narrated in a high-pitched, emotionally-charged manner, which is fine in small doses, but became draining since there was so much of it.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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A must-listen.

The characters were so well developed, rich with individuality and strikingly flawed. They evolved, but it was realistic not pie-in-the-sky. I admit I screamed at my car stereo and cursed the author towards the end because it didn't turn out the way I was rooting for. But the author pulled it off with a realistic story of redemption, healing and purpose.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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not my style

I don't like reading intimacy scenes in book. Heterosexual or homosexual. not my cup of tea. it had potential, but would need the PG version.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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A journey through the mind of a Bengali

I so enjoyed this story, and the perspectives of its three main characters as they evolved in a cross country trip with a hidden destination. Each of the characters had their own awakenings and progressed in their life journeys in painfully detailed vignettes. I am traveling to New Delhi and Rajasthan in 2019 and enjoyed a glimpse into the culture and moral guidelines that were revealed.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Completely wonderful production!

Soneela Nankani brings this story to life with a masterful style, vocal quality - humorous and serious and blunt and carefree and somber and reserved and silly...listening was a colorful adventure and the story was completely satisfying. Leah Franqui has created a genuine story and I will seek out her future books!

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Narrator did not suit me

With no sense of proportion, the narrator sounded constantly shocked. I am not usually so easily annoyed but actually returned this book.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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an interesting listen, but somewhat stereotyped

The characters in this book all have their "issues" (certainly understandable), however I felt there were too many stereotypes for them to be relatable. So, for me, interesting listen but a 3+ rating.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Good.

Not a book for everyone but I really enjoyed it. Learned new things and new perspectives. It was a calming read.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Coming of age for all ages

This is a great story about who we are , who we think we are and how others perceive us . A wonderful journey thru our United States thru the eyes of three unlikely traveling companions. Very well written and a delight to listen to.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • JPJC
  • Virginia
  • 08-02-18

I didn’t want to say goodbye to the characters

I thoroughly enjoyed the story. The character development was exceptional.. I didn’t want the story to end. I learned a lot along with the characters in this story of cultural comparisons. I hope Miss Franqui he writes more stories in the future.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful