The Other Americans by Laila Lalami

The Other Americans

Laila Lalami

This novel uncovers the circumstances behind the suspicious death of a Moroccan immigrant, a story that is a family saga, a murder mystery, and a love story, informed by the treacherous fault lines of American culture.

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From the Pulitzer Prize finalist and author of The Moor’s Account, here is a timely and powerful novel about the suspicious death of a Moroccan immigrant—at once a family saga, a murder mystery, and a love story, informed by the treacherous fault lines of American culture.

Late one spring night, Driss Guerraoui, a Moroccan immigrant living in California, is walking across a darkened intersection when he is killed by a speeding car. The repercussions of his death bring together a diverse cast of characters: Guerraoui’s daughter Nora, a jazz composer who returns to the small town in the Mojave she thought she'd left for good; his widow, Maryam, who still pines after her life in the old country; Efraín, an undocumented witness whose fear of deportation prevents him from coming forward; Jeremy, an old friend of Nora's and an Iraq War veteran; Coleman, a detective who is slowly discovering her son's secrets; Anderson, a neighbor trying to reconnect with his family; and the murdered man himself.

As the characters—deeply divided by race, religion, and class—tell their stories, connections among them emerge, even as Driss’s family confronts its secrets, a town faces its hypocrisies, and love, messy and unpredictable, is born.

Advance Galley Reviews

I picked up this ARC from Penguin expecting to catch a contemporary, relevant peek at our current cultural swell, but I got a lot more out of this novel than just a take for the zeitgeist. Devouring this text over the span of a few days, I was drawn to Lailami’s concise, but weighted, prose and unique imaginings of the distinct narrators. So many of our popular texts seem to be about world-endings and global stakes – and this story could be read as hitting some of these topics as well in a microcosm – but this tale is also refreshingly domestic and deliberate in its close-quarter examinations. In many ways, I think it hearkens back to the type of societal novel from a century ago, even if, as I hoped, the content is critically real for our current crises of politics, faith, and conscience. Definitely recommendable, cinematic but also novelistic, I think this novel will stand beyond a product of our time.

I didn't expect to get so swept up in this book. In some ways it's a quiet story, despite the death at the center of it. However, each of the character were enthralling. I couldn't put it down.

When a Moroccan immigrant is killed in a hit-and-run on a California highway, his death brings together nine diverse characters divided by race, religion, class and immigration history. As each tells his or her story, connections emerge despite each individual's sense of alienation, as the story unfolds amid secrets, hypocrisy, love and other messy human conditions. The fourth novel of a 2014 Pulitzer Prize finalist, the story succeeds as a mystery, a love story and a study of family and character.


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