The Inscrutable Americans: A Book Review

The Inscrutable Americans by Anurag Mathur was released on January 1, 1996. How Gopal, a boy from a small town, Jajau, in Madhya Pradesh, copes with the cultural differences when he goes to Eversville for his graduation forms the crux of the story. It is a comical take on the lives of Americans. The author contrasts the cultural differences between the West and the East with finesse.

A small town boy lost in a big world…

The story is about an unexposed, gullible young man’s experience as he goes for his graduation to America. Gopal is from a village, Jajau, in Madhya Pradesh, where his family runs a hair oil factory. Experience with chemicals from an early age enables him to excel in that field. He comes to America with pre conceived notions after reading a couple of books on the same. He spends one year in a University at Eversville. His English is hilarious. Though he is not very fluent with the language, he commands revere through his sincere and innocent remarks. He is extremely good at mathematics and chemistry but is unaware of simple day to day facilities available in America.

Through the course of the book, he meets new people and learns new things. It surprises him to find that most people are divorced, as he had been told at home to beware of divorcees. His friend, Randy, helps him through thick and thin. He exposes him to the American way of life. Gopal promises his mother that he would stay away from alcohol, women and meat. Hilarity ensues as he is in dilemma between succumbing and restraining from them.  At the end, he returns home with more maturity and awareness.

Simplicity says it all!

His ignorance, innocence and point blank honesty are disarming. The reader is taken aback by how minute details from day to day life of Americans amaze him. His reactions to the climate, the people, malls and the even gadgets like washing machine, drier and telephone are endearing. Gopal’s appetite for coke, his search for Brahmin cooks in American restaurants, his horror on watching a game of football, his take on sex and the ways of Americans in general are amusing and entertaining. He is seen as a person who is constantly torn between his urges and the values inculcated in him by his parents. His priorities and thought process change as he his exposed to their way of life.

The author has clearly brought out the difference between the two cultures via humor and simplicity. The book is brilliant in parts. However the story gets monotonous in between, unable to sustain the reader’s interest. Some scenes appear to have forced humor. It doesn’t fall under the category of books that, once begun, cannot be put down until it culminates. It is nevertheless a good read.

All in all, the book is a must read for its simplicity, transparency and light hearted humor.

Deepashri Varadarajan.

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