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The Americans by Chitra Viraraghavan

The Americans

by Chitra Viraraghavan

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2110495,208 (3.5)4



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Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
Chitra Viraraghavan is a talent to watch. Very bold (and beautiful!) writing. I've read a lot of books on Indian immigrants in America and most of them have the same kind of theme - dissatisfaction, being misunderstood in a new land and so forth, some more compelling than others. This author offers a rather different angle, other sorts of problems that Indian immigrants face. There is no single protagonist: the story follows a set of individuals, some interconnected, some not. The balance between action and descriptive narrative seems to be precisely perfect. In the end, Ms. Viraraghavan gives us just enough to imagine the way each individual story will proceed. My only regret about this novel is the book's cover - it's a variation on the ubiquitous image that accompanies a lot of books on Indian immigrants, a little overused and stereotypical. ( )
1 vote Clara53 | Nov 20, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This is another early review freebie I finally got around to, but this novel is actually fantastic! It's one of those near-epics with a large cast of characters and overlapping plotlines it kind of jumps between, so I had to just go with the flow and stop trying to keep track of everyone for the first 50 pages or so. The unifying factor is that most of the characters are recent US immigrants, mainly from India, but the plotarcs aren't necessarily what you'd expect from an "immigrant experience novel" - there's the family raising an autistic son, the husband cheating on his wife with a younger (white) woman, the teenage girl trying to skirt her family's strict "no dating" rules to get to the cool kids' parties...there are some lovely little surprises tucked in here. ( )
  KLmesoftly | Oct 1, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I won't spend much time describing the storyline of The Americans by Chitra Viraraghavan because otheres will do that for you. I'll say this: It's about belonging. Not just in a strange place among different people but in your house, among your own. Ms. Viraraghavan writes well and each of her characters are interesting enough but I did find myself wanting more. Until sitting down to finish it today, I would have said, "It's a good book". I am surprised and happy to find that it became much more than that in the last 40-50 pages when the author brought each story to fruition and each character to the place each one needed to be. I didn't expect she would have enough pages left to complete their stories let alone take it from a decent novel to a thought-provoking, affecting and bittersweet one. When it ended, I cared about the characters. I wanted to go back and read it again for clues and for the 20/20 hindsight we all wish we had at some point in our lives. That makes it a very good read. ( )
  HighCountry | Sep 13, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Cjitra Vararaghavan’s The Americans is a compelling, wide-reaching read. The novel, though written in third person, presents the perspectives of a wide cast of characters, most of whom are Indian-America. There’s Tara, who is unwillingly leaving India to help manage her sister’s U.S. home while that sister seeks treatment for an autistic son. CLN is a widower who has heard little from his daughter since her immigration to the U.S.; suddenly, she wants him in her home, though she has almost no time for him as she pursues her own work and interests. Akhil, a university tech worker, grows increasingly paranoid in the post-9/11 climate in the U.S. Vinod is attempting to escape an arranged marriage via an affair with a much-younger artist. Shantanu is an undocumented restaurant worker, who fears his criminally engaged employers. There are another half dozen or so characters additional characters, including an Israeli-immigrant housekeeper and an African-American student in a basic writing course.

Many of the reviews of this book, describe it as more a collection of short stories than a novel, but I think this misses a key point: this is a novel, one whose central character is an entire community, not just a single individual. Viraraghavan introduces us to a wealth of carefully depicted characters—but their identities become richer as we see them functioning within the relationships with one another.

The variety of characters also allows Viraraghavan to evoke a variety of moods: distraction, disappointment, humor, hope, sharply honed honesty. When I began The Americans, its multitude of characters and brief chapters led me to think it would be an easy book to pick up, put down, and pick up once more. In fact, I found myself reading it in a single sitting. I didn’t just want to understand events from the perspective of each chapter’s focal character; I wanted to see how these events would influence the experiences of other characters.

We’re just two-thirds of the way through 2015, but I am absolutely confident that The Americans will be one of my favorite titles when I look back on my reading over this year. ( )
  Sarah-Hope | Aug 27, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
If I had to use one word to describe this collection of stories it would be unsettling. All but one of the characters is from India, some residing in the US others visiting. Each is character has a separate story with most of them dealing with some sort of conflict, whether it is an autistic child, mental illness, poverty or marital dissatisfaction. The concluding chapters about each were unfinished…bringing no conclusion to the issues, but I imagine that was intended because that is life. (LibraryThing review copy) ( )
  brangwinn | Aug 7, 2015 |
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