Book review: The Other Americans — by Laila Lalami
Nora, a jazz composer, opens the novel with an account of her reaction upon hearing the news of her father’s death. It is uncannily recounted with true-to-life details of shock and numbness. “Fatal hit-and-run on the 8300 block of Chemehuevi, corner with Highway 62.” From there, a handful of characters tell their own version of the event. Maryam, Nora’s mother, Jeremy, a childhood friend returned from Iraq, Driss, Nora’s father, and also an undocumented man who witnessed the accident — all have their side to tell. In short chapters told from each different viewpoint, Laila Lalami, author of Pulitzer Prize finalist, “The Moor’s Account,” quickly establishes empathy for each person touched by this incident while simultaneously ratcheting up the tension in the story, holding the reader in rapt attention with astute characterizations and brilliant plotting. It’s a mystery, and a story of small American towns, and what it means to return to yours even though, in your new life, you are nothing like the person you left behind, but in your hometown, you are still the person you were before you left. It’s a story of love — familial bonds, childhood bonds, connections — and divisions, between right and wrong, between races and classes, between families and friends.
— Reviewed by Jenny Lyons of The Vermont Book Shop in Middlebury.
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