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

An interesting slice of lives of people marginalized in eastern SoCal -- many immigrants, all disappointed by life in various ways chasing dreams or forsaking them. At the center of it is a Moroccan-American family -- parents running a diner, dutiful older daughter a married dentist, free-spirited younger daughter attempting to make it as a composer. When the father is killed in a hit-and-run, younger daughter Nora comes down from the Bay Area and is reunited with high school acquaintances -- band geek-turned-cop Jeremy and former bully AJ working his dad's bowling alley next to the diner. Shifting perspectives accentuate the complexities of not just the town and it's history, but also war/regime change, race, sexuality, identity, parental expectations, and relationships. One red herring was a bit nagging as to its purpose, but otherwise, great richness of character and struggles, and well-crafted situations.

Wow! I loved The Other Americans and wasn't ready for it to be over when I finished. The writing is so well done. The characters and their relationships feel real. Even though it raises some heavy issues, the book never feels preachy or slow moving. I would highly recommend The Other Americans and will be looking for the author's other work!

In Laila Lalami’s The Other Americans, a Moroccan-American man is killed in a hit and run near his business in the Mojave desert. As the book unfolds, various narrators tell their stories and we explore the way each person’s life intertwines with the others. Ultimately, this is a book about human interactions and their complexity as well as the unknowability of a human being. I thought this book was quite good. I was really drawn into the characters and found the multiple narrators enhanced the story rather than detracting from it. I appreciated the surprises in the story, which enhanced it as well and typically gave depth to the characters. I did feel there were aspects of the book that made it feel a touch remote and I would have preferred more closeness with the characters, but overall this is a winner.

This kind of reads like the 2004 movie "Crash" (with Don Cheadle) played....it begins with an 'incident'...& then the story is told from the various viewpoints of the players or characters involved with/surrounding/witnessing that 'incident.' It also likens to that movie, in exposing/dealing with various racial issues & also following a different timeline like the movie did......after the initial 'incident' happens, the telling kind of backtracks through the characters involved & how they all got to that point of being involved in it. It's a really interesting & effective way to present a story...it worked for the book (& the movie too!) It's a timely tale of race relations in the USA, & could probably be a lot of people's 'real life' stories....unfortunately. I really liked the book, how it read...& would recommend it to everyone. I received this e-galley from Penguin's First-To-Read giveaway program, agreeing to read it & post my own fair & honest review.

I loved Leila Lalami's THE MOORS. This novel The Other Americans is a slower read, a family saga I enjoyed but found somehow a slow read. Anyone who likes family saga will enjoy this novel. I gave it 3 stars

"The Other Americans" is a timely novel examining many issues at the forefront of all our lives. And yet, for all the ground this novel covers, it is written in a way that is a pleasure to sit back and enjoy - it never feels heavy or rushed. I especially loved how the ambiguity of the title became greater as the novel progressed.

Laila Lalami's beautifully written novel unfolds like a fan, revealing itself to the reader as it spreads out to tell a wider story. Her characters are resonant and reflect Lalami's deep empathy. If the story falters a bit in the last fifty pages it hardly matters because by then I was utterly entranced by this novel. I can't wait to explore more of Lalami's work.

I loved this book. The irony of the book is that we are all “other Americans”. For illegal immigrants, as happens in the story, there is the conflict between doing what’s right and facing deportation or turning away and living with the personal consequences. For first generation immigrants, the conflict lies in trying to be an American, while not giving up a culture, religion, and customs that are loved. For their children the conflict is being born an American but dealing with prejudices in school and life while also striving to be the traditional child their parents expect them to be. This book raises all of these issues. It’s an interesting mix of the good and bad of our country today. Love, compassion, hard work, forgiveness are the good that is up against bigotry, hate, deceit, and anger. This is a book everyone should read

The Other Americans is a multilayered novel. It is all at once a family saga, a mystery, social commentary and a love story. Told from the perspectives of the victim, his immigrant family, neighbors and police, The Other Americans not only provides a clear lense for racial and class tensions, but also allows insight into the burdens our protectors carry. Although the book description focuses on the hit and run accident that claimed the life of patriarch Driss Guerraroui, at the forefront of this novel is love: self-love and acceptance, the love between a parent and child and the sacrifice that comes with it and romantic love. Not a syrupy sweet fairy tale romance, but a soul stirring love with real people, real issues and real emotion. Before picking up this book I was struggling through a reading slump. The Other Americans came at just the right time for me. I have already ordered a physical copy for my personal library. Would definitely recommend!

This is so amazing! I'm always a sucker for an ensemble cast that tells the story, and I loved the different perspectives of each POV character in this book. The story is so well-constructed and each character brings depth and dimension to the plot making it such a rich reading experience. We start with Nora learning that her father has died, and move over to Jeremy, a police officer and former classmate of Nora's and then shift from character to character including both of Nora's parents, who tell both the past and the future of the family. We learn about what makes the identity of these Americans: the impoverished, the immigrants, the first generation kids, the people of color; all pursuing the same American dream, and the challenges they face in doing so.

I haven't previously read any of Lalami's work (The Moor's Account), but I fell in love with this book quickly and easily. The writing was captivating to me and I loved the interplay that all the characters had to each other. It's an interesting concept to me to realize that, though we may not 'know' each other in day-to-day lives, sometimes we have a greater connection to each other that's boiling, unbeknownst to us, just below the surface. That individual motivations and desires and wants and needs propel us into a world that affected collectively by those individual choices. I love the idea of this connectivity even when we're not away of it. At the heart of The Other Americans, we're trying to figure out how Driss, a Moroccan immigrant, was killed. Was it an accident or a hit-and-run? From there, Lalami introduces us to a wide cast of characters and throughout the book, they each give their personal account of what happened up to and past the accident. It sounds confusing, but it's definitely not because Lalami accomplishes this flawlessly. The stories all flowed together to tell a greater picture about the subtle racism that Muslims continue to face in our society, about grief and how to move forward with your life when you lost such an important person in your life, and new love and the challenges that come with giving yourself to someone else. I loved this dramatic book and it gave me a lot to think about. It's complicated and realistic - just like like is. We face our own thoughts and ideas and see how those play out around the people around us. It's interesting and so thought-provoking.

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.

 


More to Explore

  • The Moor's Account

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