Book Review: ‘The Other Americans: A Novel’ By Laila Lalami

One family in crisis and change and a cast of characters in a small California town all come together and cross paths and their lives forever change.

Driss Guerraoui is a Moroccan immigrant who owns a diner in Mojave. He’s married to Maryam and has two daughters. When Driss is killed one night in a hit and run it sets off a chain of events. Nora is heartbroken and has to face her overbearing mother in a place she thought she put behind her. Efrain who witnessed the hit and run but doesn’t want to come forward because he is illegal in the country. Maryam has to face being single and what she knew about her husband. She never liked the diner and wants to get rid of it. Jeremy a veteran of Iraq and a cop in town, who is friends with Fierro, another vet who has issues. Coleman the detective working the case. And Anderson and his family who own the bowling alley next door to the diner and who has had issues with Driss over the years.

Each chapter is told from the point of view of one of the characters. We learn things from Driss point of view, Nora and Jeremy start a thing but it may not work out. Nora has to face her own insecurities and figure out what it is she wants and deal with her mother.

Each person’s story is told and at its core the story is about everyday people dealing with everyday stuff. Whether it’s race, illegal immigration, weight shamming, PTSD and family, author Laila Lalami never gets preachy about any subject. She just lays the cards out on the table. The story could be about anyone in small town or big town America. You easily connect with the characters and root for them in the end.

Just a great novel from start to finish. You can pick it up in stores on Tuesday, March 26th from Pantheon.

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