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The Other Americans


The Other Americans

Nora Guerraoui left a small town in the Mojave the day she departed for college, but after receiving the news that her father, Driss, had been killed in a hit-and-run accident, she returns to her hometown. Suddenly, she is forced to confront quite a few unresolved issues between her and the remaining members of her family: her mother Maryam and sister Salma.

Nora is a bit lost. She is a musician in love with music and composing, but her career and love life are not headed in the right direction. Then, all of a sudden, her father is dead and she has to face her mother, who has never approved of her career choice. To make matters worse, she must deal with unexpected shattering secrets that have emerged following her father’s death. Moreover, she will have to bear the brunt of her sister’s hostility after the family finds out that Driss left Nora a significant amount of money.

"The writing is superb, lyrical and beautiful, and I enjoyed immensely how Lalami crafted each different voice in a unique way."

Nora is at a crossroads in her life and has to decide between continuing to pursue a career in music and keeping her father’s legacy (his restaurant) alive. During her return, she reconnects with her high school acquaintance Jeremy, now a police officer and an Iraqi war veteran, who has his own fair share of issues.

The story is told through the lenses of many narrators. In addition to Nora, Salma, Maryam, Jeremy and Driss, there’s Efrain, an undocumented migrant who also is the sole witness of the hit and run; Coleman, a detective investigating Driss’ case; Anderson, a neighbor of the Guerraouis; and his son, A.J.

During her time of grief, Nora grows close to Jeremy, but their relationship is as fragile as she is. I loved reading their narrative because both are complex characters, and author Laila Lalami has carefully crafted them and the story around them. However, introducing the viewpoints of the other characters mentioned above makes the novel a bit confusing. It opens up too many plotlines, not all of which are connected to the main story. Furthermore, Lalami does not give us any indication of what happens to these supporting players, which often made me frustrated.

Still, THE OTHER AMERICANS is worth reading. The writing is superb, lyrical and beautiful, and I enjoyed immensely how Lalami crafted each different voice in a unique way.

Reviewed by Dunja Bonacci Skenderović on April 12, 2019

The Other Americans
by Laila Lalami

  • Publication Date: March 17, 2020
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage
  • ISBN-10: 0525436030
  • ISBN-13: 9780525436034