From the Pulitzer Prize finalist, this 2019 National Book Award finalist is a timely new novel about the suspicious death of a Moroccan immigrant that is at once a family saga, a murder mystery, and a love story, all of it informed by the treacherous fault lines of American culture.
Carve out some reading time before you pick up Laila Lalami's new novel The Other Americans. You won't want to get up from your chair for some time, maybe even until you've reached the last page. You're in the hands of a maestra of literary fiction, someone who has combined a riveting police procedural with a sensitive examination of contemporary life in California's Mojave Desert region ... [Lalami is] superb at creating different cadences on the page, recognizing that even when speaking in a relatively similar tone, people's voices carry ... if someone asked me to name one book I think at least grapples with the problem of trying to be The Great American Novel, I'd name The Other Americans ... excellent ...
Laila Lalami...skillfully investigates the nuances of difference in The Other Americans, a novel that is as much a murder mystery as a perceptive depiction of how some folks are ruled by supposed disparities. Ms. Lalami’s intentions are clear from the ingenious way she has structured her novel ... As can happen in books with multiple narrators, voices in The Other Americans sometimes blur. If not for the circumstances described, readers might occasionally have trouble distinguishing among narrators. And the chapter told from Salma’s perspective feels superfluous. Yet The Other Americans is a powerful novel filled with magnificent details ... Ms. Lalami’s work beautifully dramatizes the issues that can preclude understanding.
Now, with her novel The Other Americans, [Lalami] plunges into the lives of fictional yet convincingly real individuals ... There is an undeniable perfunctoriness to [the book]; it feels as though Lalami is checking off a list of groups that social justice advocates have designated — however accurately — as disadvantaged. Moreover, she will at times skimp on showing in favor of telling ... The tale’s conclusion proves at once grim and hopeful. In a technical sense, this requires skilled calibration by the author. Crucially, however, Lalami’s panoptic view is what enables her to strike such a balance at the end, and what establishes the novel’s identity from the beginning. After all, The Other Americans might have emerged as a circumscribed account of a crime with one victim and one perpetrator. Instead, Lalami gives us a searching exploration of the lives of several individuals with whom mainstream American society has a vexed relationship.