Late one spring night in California, Driss Guerraoui–father, husband, business owner, Moroccan immigrant–is hit and killed by a speeding car. The aftermath of his death brings together a diverse cast of characters: Guerraoui’s daughter Nora, a jazz composer returning to the small town in the Mojave she thought she’d left for good; her mother, Maryam, who still pines for 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 Iraqi 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, each in their own voice, connections among them emerge. Driss’s family confronts its secrets, a town faces its hypocrisies, and love–messy and unpredictable–is born. Timely, riveting, and unforgettable, The Other Americans is at once a family saga, a murder mystery, and a love story informed by the treacherous fault lines of American culture.
“Perhaps memory is not merely the preservation of a moment in the mind, but the process of repeatedly returning to it, carefully breaking it up in parts and assembling them again until we can make sense of what we remember.”
It’s been awhile since I’ve read a character driven story. The previous books that I have read are all plot driven and the characters of some books are really not well developed. But The Other Americans just left me in awe!
The story focuses on the aftermath of a hit and run incident (involving a Moroccan immigrant) which affected a whole cast of characters. While there are a lot of characters involved, you wont feel overwhelmed by them as Laila Lalami’s impeccable writing skills will bring you through the links between these characters in this story. The tensions, emotions, conflict, dynamics and relationship between the characters were all fleshed out brilliantly! These characters are believable and I felt that they came alive through the pen of Laila Lalami.
From the dynamics between the characters, Laila Lalami managed to brought out major issues that are currently facing by immigrants in America: identity crisis, family tensions, the conflict between race, religion and culture. The clash between a conservative Muslim and a progressive Muslim was also brought out through the characters of Maryam and Driss/Nora. The aftermath of the 911 incident (i.e. immigrants/Muslims being despised by Americans and the PTSD faced by Iraqi war veterans) was also incorporated.
The Other Americans is definitely a 10/10 star to me. If you enjoy reading character driven stories, you will be guilty for not picking up The Other Americans!