© Leah Franqui 2017 

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Pival Sengupta has done something she never expected: she has booked a trip with the First Class India USA Destination Vacation Tour Company. But unlike other upper-class Indians on a foreign holiday, the recently widowed Pival is not interested in sightseeing. She is traveling thousands of miles from Kolkota to New York on a cross-country journey to California, where she hopes to uncover the truth about her beloved son, Rahi. A year ago Rahi devastated his very traditional parents when he told them he was gay. Then, Pival’s husband, Ram, told her that their son had died suddenly—heartbreaking news she still refuses to accept. Now, with Ram gone, she is going to America to find Rahi, alive and whole or dead and gone, and come to terms with her own life.

Arriving in New York, the tour proves to be more complicated than anticipated. Planned by the company’s indefatigable owner, Ronnie Munshi—a hard-working immigrant and entrepreneur hungry for his own taste of the American dream—it is a work of haphazard improvisation. Pavil’s guide is the company’s new hire, the guileless and wonderfully resourceful Satya, who has been in America for one year—and has never actually left the five boroughs. For modesty’s sake Pival and Satya will be accompanied by Rebecca Elliot, an aspiring young actress. Eager for a paying gig, she’s along for the ride, because how hard can a two-week "working" vacation traveling across America be?

Slowly making her way from coast to coast with her unlikely companions, Pival finds that her understanding of her son—and her hopes of a reunion with him—are challenged by her growing knowledge of his adoptive country. As the bonds between this odd trio deepens, Prival, Satya, and Rebecca learn to see America—and themselves—in different and profound new ways.


Check out what the critics have to say!

 “compelling… a strong contemporary story about cross-cultural alliances, the bonds of family and what it means to ‘learn America.’”- USA Today

 “America for Beginners will take you on a truly extraordinary cross-country journey.”- Hello Giggles

“a funny, feel-good cross-country tale...exactly the kind of story that we could use right now — people of different backgrounds coming together and realizing that they are more similar than assumed.”- AM New York 


“Complex and well-drawn characters… America for Beginners has something — or someone, for everyone.”- The Washington Times

“A satisfying, heartfelt novel… Franqui adroitly balances all the characters, making them distinct and refreshing. Readers will be taken by this emotionally rewarding novel.” -Publishers Weekly 

"The pleasure of this smart, mild-mannered novel is that, through its juxtapositions, the reader, too, begins to see the country afresh." - The Wall Street Journal 

"There’s no hyperbole in the effusive praise garnered by Philadelphia native Leah Franqui’s first novel, America for Beginners. Her charming story of an Indian widow’s solo trip to America merits comparisons to Anne Tyler (Clock Dance, A Spool of Blue Thread) for its balance of warm, gentle, convincing characters and frank exploration of thorny and timely topics." - The Broad Street Review

"Extremely moving, this is a gorgeous book about a different type of American road trip." - The New York Post


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