America for Beginners by Leah Franqui
Pival Sengupta is a recent widow in Kolkata, India and she is finally going to get some answers. Her son came out as gay to his parents a couple of years before and her husband erased all traces of Rahi from their lives and refused to allow any contact with their son. A year ago her husband answered a phone call and told her that Rahi was dead. She has always had some doubt whether her husband was telling the truth so she calls the First Class India USA Destination Vacation Tour Company to show her the sights of America and bring her to California where she is determined to somehow find her son.
Ronnie Munshi owns First Class India USA Destination Vacation Tour Company and he has a secret. While he and his employees all speak Bengali they are all Bangladeshi immigrants living in New York. He has never had a widow traveling solo on one of his tours so he begins a desperate search for a female companion and finds Rebecca. Rebecca is a struggling (read: out of work) American actress that decides the change of scenery would be nice and signs on to escort Mrs. Sengupta along with Satya, a brand new guide.
As I’m sure you can imagine this odd trio has many unexpected adventures on their journey across the country. There are many cultural differences that are brought to the fore and all are made more aware of the differences and astonished about the similarities between their lives. Having Rebecca in the mix is a great addition for American readers: I, like Rebecca, was unaware of the tension between Indians and Bangladeshis being unfamiliar with the politics in that area of the world.
There are many humorous moments during the journey as well as difficult ones. The racism and intolerance are difficult to read but it is heartening that these characters are trying to look beyond their beliefs to see the person standing in front of them as an individual. All three learn more about America, how they see the country and themselves.