Pourasgari retains the interest of the reader till the end, weaving Tessa’s activism and her reluctant love for Toshiro into an interesting narrative while evoking the conflict between the traditional members of Japanese society and those with a more modern and liberal outlook through the relationship between Toshiro and his father. The plot turns on an accident and an instance of short-term memory loss, a familiar justification in romance stories for keeping couples separated, and at times the narrative edges into travelogue, slowing the momentum.
Tessa, of course, is attempting to make changes in a society that’s not her own, and The American Outsider faces the question of why, when her own country allows so much inhumane treatment of animals, this gaijin travels across the world to protest. Throughout the story, as she risks prosecution and even imprisonment, Tessa makes new discoveries about Japan and its culture, while Toshiro likewise learns much that he never expected, about her past, her passion, the depth of feeling of dolphins—and about himself. Tessa’s commitment to the welfare of all of Earth’s creatures will inspire animal lovers.
Takeaway: The engaging story of an animal rights activist bringing her cause to Japan and finding romance.
Great for fans of: Fiona Mountain’s Lady of the Butterflies, Deb Olin Unferth’s Barn 8.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A
The American Outsider: A Novel
Linbrook Press (2023)
Reviewed by Lily Andrews for Reader Views (11/2023)
5 Stars - An unswerving and heart-filled read
"The American Outsider" by Homa Pourasgari showcases a passionate and relentless veterinarian Tessa Walker, who won't stop until suffering animals get justice from merciless killers in the land of Taiji, Japan. She holds memories of brutal dolphin murders in Japan, which she had visited as a teen. Her pleading cries for help had fallen on her parents' deaf ears. Tessa tries hard to push the memories back, but her strength to fight wears off at forty.
She tries attending therapist sessions, all in vain. That's when Tessa decides that the only thing remaining is to do something about them. A quick trip to Taiji faces adverse resistance from her successful real estate broker father. Also, her veterinarian career, which she studied for 10 years, is about to go down for nothing. Her father wants grandchildren, but Tessa seems unstoppable. She decides to rebel against him and confront the inhuman Taiji murderers personally.
Unconditional friendships with Akira and other like-minded activists quickly accelerate Tessa's mission. Her life takes a new twist when she meets a hardworking Toshiro whom she falls in love with. Her Japanese culture further complicates her life as it collides with her American culture. Will she cope? Will she stop these fishermen whose livelihood depended on fishing? Tessa gets tired, cold, and disappointed, ultimately hating everything about her life. Deep loneliness creeps in. Will she be able to survive alone or will her mother offer a hand of help?
Few books have had as great an impact on how humans think of our fellow creatures as Pourasgari's "The American Outsider." Intense and electrifying, she delivers a wild ride of crime and adventure. With a strong and resolute female read, the novel does not dally in its progress but delivers knuckle-hard action and thrill. Tessa is determined to cut through Japan's ambivalence and perils to find the villains and help the country's activists fight for their animals. With its strong and thought-provoking themes, Homa Pourasgari has written a captivating yarn that is rapt and fast-paced, with sentences that feel like carved basalt: sharpened and lustrous honed.
Further, this plausible story is imbued with the lifestyle, traditions, and culture of the nation of Japan, resulting in a satisfying ode that goes down smoothly yet packages a knock. Altogether, this 5-star literary execution is not only entertaining but written with incredible agility and insight. Inevitably, readers will come away with a new appreciation of the struggles to protect animals in our modern society. A win-win in every aspect!