STARRED REVIEW
April 2019

The Other Americans

By Laila Lalami
Review by

When Driss Guerraoui, the owner of a diner near Joshua Tree National Park, leaves his restaurant one night, he’s killed in a mysterious hit-and-run while crossing the street. But this wasn’t an accident; it was murder, concludes his daughter Nora, as a variety of surprising details about her father’s life emerge. He was, after all, feuding with Anderson Baker, the owner of the bowling alley next door.

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When Driss Guerraoui, the owner of a diner near Joshua Tree National Park, leaves his restaurant one night, he’s killed in a mysterious hit-and-run while crossing the street. But this wasn’t an accident; it was murder, concludes his daughter Nora, as a variety of surprising details about her father’s life emerge. He was, after all, feuding with Anderson Baker, the owner of the bowling alley next door.

As aspiring composer Nora returns to her hometown to help run the family diner and grieve with her mother and sister, she encounters a variety of ghosts from her childhood, including Baker’s son, A.J., who in high school wrote “raghead” on her locker, bullying her because her parents emigrated from Morocco out of fear of political unrest.

Moroccan-born Laila Lalami was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for The Moor’s Account, and her much-anticipated fourth book, The Other Americans, doesn’t disappoint. The story carefully unfolds from multiple viewpoints, including that of Nora’s immigrant mother, Maryam; her jealous and seemingly highly successful sister, Salma; and even her dead father. There’s also Detective Coleman, an African-American woman investigating the case, as well as a Mexican immigrant who witnessed Driss’ death and remains haunted by his ghost but is afraid to come forward and risk deportation. Nora also reconnects with her high school friend Jeremy, now an Iraq War veteran and sheriff’s deputy.

Lalami’s crisp, straightforward prose offers the perfect counterpoint to the complexity of her plot, which artfully interweaves past and present. Reminiscent of Ann Patchett’s Commonwealth in its depiction of the enduring effects of family secrets and betrayals, The Other Americans also addresses a multitude of other issues—immigration, prejudice, post-traumatic stress, love and murder—with what can only be described as magical finesse.

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The Other Americans

The Other Americans

By Laila Lalami
Pantheon
ISBN 9781524747145

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