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The Other Americans

by Laila Lalami

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3172058,883 (3.98)20
"From the Pulitzer Prize finalist, author of The Moor's Account--a timely and powerful new novel about the suspicious death of a Moroccan immigrant that is at once a family saga, a murder mystery, and a love story, all of it informed by the treacherous fault lines of American culture. Nora Guerraoui, a jazz composer, returns home to a small town in the Mojave after hearing that her father, owner of a popular restaurant there, has been killed in a suspicious hit-and-run car accident. Told by multiple narrators--Nora herself, Jeremy (the Iraq war veteran with whom she develops an intimacy), widow Maryam, Efrain (an immigrant witness to the accident who refuses to get involved for fear of deportation), Coleman (the police investigator), and Driss (the dead man himself), The Other Americans deftly explores one family's secrets and hypocrisies even as it offers a portrait of Americans riven by race, class, and religion, living side by side, yet ignorant of the vicissitudes that each tribe, as it were, faces" --… (more)



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» See also 20 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
Uncle. Between the shifting perspectives of identical-sounding cliches and stereotypes, name-dropping of places in the region (how many times do we have to hear that someone's gone to Stater Brothers? Does no one shop at the Vons or the Grocery Outlet?), inaccuracies about the desert (e.g., turtle doves do not live in North America and Santa Anas happen in fall), and cringeingly trite language and cliched sex scenes (ugh!), I just can't finish this one. Kudos for tackling a tough issue, but the writing is just too tedious.

There are a couple of very good, detailed critical reviews here on Goodreads, so I'll direct you to those rather than go through the trouble of writing one myself.

Two stars rather than one because my dinnertime rant about this book amused my family so much. ( )
  ImperfectCJ | Jun 28, 2020 |
The story of a woman, Nora, whose father is killed in a hit and run accident. It unwinds at a nice speed, there is romance, conflict, etc. A nice easy read. ( )
  kayanelson | Jun 18, 2020 |
This is a very well done novel centering on a family from North Africa who come to America looking for a new life and opportunity. They buy a restaurant in a small California desert town. The story is told by numerous character's perspectives which are indicated by the chapter headings. The story's hub involves the family patriarch is struck and killed by a hit and run driver and who that driver was. Other central characters are his wife and two daughters and how they are affected. There are other minor characters but they are skillfully defined by the chapter headings. A really great book. ( )
  muddyboy | Jun 16, 2020 |
Told from multiple points of view, this novel revolves around Nora and her family, first and second generation immigrants living near Joshua Tree, California. After her father's death in a hit-and-run accident, Nora returns to her home town from San Francisco. Somewhat paralyzed by her grief, she grapples with the loss of her father and adjusting to her small community and family dynamics. Having just ended a relationship with a married man, she connects with a friend from high school who had always had a crush on her. The varied voices telling the story add depth and perspective as events unfold, and make for an engaging and thought-provoking novel. ( )
  sleahey | Apr 28, 2020 |
Short chapters told from different characters' perspectives slowly illuminate the hit and run death of Driss Guerraoui--father, husband and diner owner in the California desert--in Laila Lalami’s The Other Americans. Driss’s daughter, Nora, returns home after her father’s death and holds the center of the narrative as she tries to learn what happened and heal relationships with her mother and sister. Sometimes the jumps in time and character feel a bit awkward, but Lalami masterfully handles many different voices to reveal the cracks in families and in society. Her use of the California desert to create the atmosphere is also worth noting. As a finalist for the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, Lalami is clearly being recognized by critics, but still lacks the popularity she deserves. Readers of Ann Patchett, Elizabeth Strout and the like should branch out--I think they will be pleasantly surprised by The Other Americans. ( )
  Hccpsk | Dec 10, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
For the reader, the novel presents something of a Rorschach test. Will our belief and sympathy depend on the speaker’s racial or gender identity, or perhaps his or her age? What if the perpetrators have no interest in being forgiven? What if we never really believed in truth, only persuasion?
Throughout the novel, Lalami’s attention to contrast and contradiction is stunning. Her prose is incisive and lived-in, as though culled from decades of listening in on private conversations between older family members. In this, Nora’s chapters are the strongest. Through her voice, readers most clearly feel the central tension of the novel: the Guerraouis’ deep desire to belong to a country that vilifies people like them.
“The Other Americans” manages to be many books at once: a gripping literary thriller, a complex love story and a sharp critique of an America wracked by war and hatred, divided against itself, constantly near a breaking point. And Lalami succeeds admirably on all fronts: The novel is intricately plotted, up to its shocking but unforced end. There are no unnecessary plot twists; Lalami is an intelligent author who’s not in love with her own cleverness.
[Lalami] shows how we are all "other," not just to our fellows, but to ourselves. A person capable of a ghastly crime might also be capable of deep feeling for other creatures. People who were once closer than lovers can drift apart, and lovers can become strangers within weeks, or decades.
The Other Americans demonstrates brilliantly, in ways foreseen and unforeseen, as often denied as acknowledged, how the personal and political enmesh in all our lives.
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My father was killed on a spring night four years ago, while I sat in the corner booth of a new bistro in Oakland.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Average: (3.98)
2 3
2.5 1
3 11
3.5 11
4 30
4.5 7
5 19


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