The four main characters of this linked series of fictional profiles are connected by a single goal: the desire to emigrate from Morocco to Spain, where there are jobs. Lalami, author of the literary blog moorishgirl.com, opens her book with the four (along with several others) illegally crossing the Strait of Gibraltar in a tiny inflatable raft; when it capsizes near shore, it is everyone for themselves. The next four chapters flash back to their varying lives in Morocco: Faten, a lower-class, college-aged woman appears only through the eyes of middle-class friend Noura's parents, who are horror-stricken as Noura falls under Faten's influence and begins wearing the hijab; Halima, a financially struggling mother who, with her children, is escaping an abusive marriage; Aziz Ammor, who hopes to support his wife by finding work in Spain; and Murad, a college graduate who makes pocket money by taking Paul Bowles fans on informal tours. The four following chapters detail, with sensitivity and journalistic clarity, their lives after the trip across the Strait. Less a novel than a set of finely detailed portraits, this book gives outsiders a glimpse of some of Moroccan society's strata and the desperation that underlies many ordinary lives. Agent, Stephanie Abou at the Joy Harris Agency. (Oct. 7) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Lalami's first novel is made up of linked short stories that bear witness to the human spirit and perseverance. In "The Trip," the opening piece, 30 people, mostly Moroccans, huddle together in an inflatable rubber boat en route to the Spanish coast. Unfortunately, the boatman reneges on his agreement to drop them off at the shore; the only choice is to swim the remaining distance to Tarifa. Halima, a battered wife with three children and not a strong swimmer, starts to panic until her ten-year-old son, Farid, finds a stick and pulls her to safety only for them to be confronted with the Spanish police. "Better Luck Tomorrow" tells the story of sweet, friendly Murad, a guide in Tangier who does not swoop down on tourists like his competitors; instead, he gently approaches a few of them with the line, "Interested in Paul Bowles?" If they are not, he offers to take them to a market, a palace, a fancy hotel, or a museum. "The Fanatic" portrays a young Muslim woman, Faten, who tries to influence her best friend, Mouna, to adopt her fundamentalist beliefs. Lalami's characters are believable, sympathetic, and quite ordinary, nurturing hopes and dreams of a better life in the face of harsh conditions. An eloquent, fascinating glimpse into Moroccan culture and traditions, this debut is highly recommended for academic and large public libraries.-Lisa Nussbaum, Dauphin Cty. Lib. Syst., Harrisburg, PA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Adult/High School-This contemporary tale opens with 30 people huddled in an inflatable lifeboat meant to hold 8, attempting illegally to cross the Strait of Gibraltar from Tangier to Spain. Lalami explores the lives of four of these travelers, from the circumstances that led up to their being in that boat, to the lives they make for themselves after their attempted crossing is thwarted by the Spanish border's Guardia Civil. Murad lives with his mother and younger siblings. Although he has a degree in English and speaks fluent Spanish, his life consists of hustling American and British tourists to various points of interest in Morocco. Halima, married with two young sons, works as a janitor to make ends meet while her husband drinks her earnings away and beats her in frustration. She sees the trip as her one chance at escape. Faten, an outspoken university student, crosses paths with an education administrator and finds herself expelled from school. Aziz, tired of seeing his wife go off to work while he cannot find employment, dreams of making a life in Spain and bringing his wife over once he is established. Two of these four characters avoid the Guardia Civil; two of them do not. Each learns that ultimately success has little to do with location and everything to do with smaller, day-to-day decisions. With a softness and lyricism that belie the fact that this is a first novel, the narrative introduces readers to beautifully drawn characters who make for a gem of a tale.-Kim Dare, Fairfax County Public Library System, VA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Ambitious debut about a group of young Moroccans looking for jobs and a better life. Lalami sets the stage for her interlinked tales with the section "The Trip," which introduces Murad, Faten, Aziz and Halima (and her children), all packed together on an inflatable boat illegally crossing the Strait Gibraltar into Spain. Part I: Before explains what made these people risk everything to leave Morocco. Twentysomething Murad was an under-employed tour guide; Faten flunked her college exams; Aziz wanted to make more money and shut up his censorious in-laws; Halima needed to escape an abusive husband. Part II: After revisits the characters, revealing their fates and their transformations following their plunge into the waters 250 meters off the Spanish coast. In the final story, sensitive, educated, English-speaking Murad gets a job as a salesman in a Tangier gift shop. There, he relates a magical, ancient tale to two tourists. First told to Murad by his father, it is a love story of beauty and revenge, providing the author an opportunity to sing her feelings for Islam, its people and its ancient culture. This intense portrait of a gorgeous, once-powerful civilization stands in stark relief to the modern society Lalami skillfully depicts with gritty realism in an omniscient narration. As her characters debate hot-button issues-How much Western culture is too much? Should women wear headscarves?-their individual points of view are presented so evenhandedly that readers are left to wonder which of these opinions are actually held by the Moroccan-born writer, who now lives in Oregon. Flawed but impressive: This could well be the preamble to an important body of work.
PRAISE FOR HOPE AND OTHER DANGEROUS PURSUITS
"Lalami skillfully limns the dark recesses of the Muslim world and creates true-to-life characters . . . With subtlety and grace [she] explores the emotional complexities of the culture they’re trying to escape—one that bears more resemblance to ours than we may imagine."—People
"Moroccan-born Lailai Lalami’s thrilling debut novel follows four desperate people . . . fleeing Morocco in a flimsy boat across the dangerous Strait of Gibraltar in a death-defying bid for freedom in Spain, a narrative journey that the popular morrishgirl.com blogger Lalami handles with a keen sense of history, hope, and panache."—Elle