Laila Lalami possesses the kind of effortless talent that makes writing seem easy. But few can match her ability to convey a substantial story so simply. It's been a few years since her last book came out, but this one was well worth the wait. It begins with a phone call that splits Nora's life in half: her father has died, the victim of a hit-and-run. So she heads back to her childhood home in the Mojave desert, seeking answers. The narration is split between Nora, members of her family (including her late father), and residents of the town that never fully accepted them. It's a mixture of mystery and literature both, this moving exploration of immigration, community, and identity, and I can't stop thinking about it. The Other Americans is the work of a master at the top of her game! Recommended By Lauren P., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
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.
"This deftly constructed account of a crime and its consequences shows up, in its quiet way, the pressures under which ordinary Americans of Muslim background have labored since the events of 9/11." J.M. Coetzee, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature
"Remarkable, timely novel. Impeccably written story about a hit and run, a family that must grapple with their grief as they try to make sense of why they’ve lost Driss, the patriarch, and the slowly unraveling mystery of who is responsible for the unthinkable. I love the depth of character here for Nora and Jeremy. The narrative is good from many points of view but theirs is the heart of this story and what a beautiful beating heart it is." Roxane Gay
"Powerful…In a narrative that succeeds as mystery and love story, family and character study, Lalami captures the complex ways humans can be strangers not just outside their 'tribes' but within them, as well as to themselves." Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Lalami impressively conducts this chorus of flawed yet graceful human beings to mellifluous effect…An eloquent reminder that frame of reference is everything when defining the 'other.'" Booklist (starred review)
"Lalami is in thrilling command of her narrative gifts, reminding readers why The Moor’s Account was a Pulitzer finalist…Nuanced characters drive this novel…Lalami expertly mines an American penchant for rendering the 'other.'" Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Pulitzer Prize finalist Lalami (The Moor’s Account) may be our finest contemporary chronicler of immigration and its discontents. Her new novel spares no one, and it’s the kind of page-turning mystery you crave for a rainy reading weekend. The book uses different perspectives to uncover the real story behind a Moroccan immigrant’s death in a California intersection." The Washington Post
About the Author
LAILA LALAMI is the author of Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits; Secret Son; and The Moor’s Account, which won the American Book Award, the Arab American Book Award, and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Her essays have appeared in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, The Nation, Harper’s Magazine, and The Guardian. A professor of creative writing at the University of California at Riverside, she lives in Los Angeles.
Laila Lalami on PowellsBooks.Blog
Before we can tell, we must remember. The first people to call this part of the Mojave home were the Cahuilla, the Serrano, the Chemehuevi. For hundreds of years, they built shelters of brush or thatch, cleared trails, foraged for nuts and acorns, hunted deer, rabbit, and mountain sheep. They traded fur in the spring and turquoise in the summer...