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Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits, by Laila Lalami.

May 30, 2014

Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits, by Laila Lalami.



A moving novel about illegal migrants crossing the Mediterranean from Morocco to Spain, exploring their hopes before and after they take the risky journey.

Many novels today trace the experience of those who come to Europe and America following the lure of education and westernization, of the good life. Laila Lalami focuses of another group of migrants: those who risk their lives to come illegally out of desperation. She opens her book with the story of a group undertaking the dangerous journey  in a rubber boat that is supposed to take them from their homes in Morocco to Spain.

The six-meter Zodiac inflatable is meant to accommodate eight people. Thirty huddle in it now, men, women, children, all with the anxious look of those whose destinies are in hands of others—the captain, the Coast Guard, God.

Lalami takes us back into the lives of four of those on that boat and tells the stories of why they chose to be on thare. For each of them, life in Morocco is at a dead end. They don’t want to leave their home country, but given their economic and social predicaments, they are driven by the sense they have no future unless they do. Then we follow what happens to those four after their risky journey. Only two manage to establish themselves in Spain, and it is arguable if their lives are better there.

As a Moroccan, Lalami writes a book deeply embedded in Moroccan life and culture. She shows us the problems those in her native country face. But she also asks us to think about hope and what happens when we dare to act on our hopes and fail to achieve them. Instead of the glib assumptions that hope is all we need, she shows us its dangers.

And yet, Lalmi’s book is not grim, but a testament to people who are making do even in apparently hopeless situations. The captain and the Coast Guard disrupt their dreams, but God, or a lucky break, may still allow a meaningful life.

Lalami is a talented author who now lives and teaches in the United States. Her recent book, The Moor’s Account, is an excellent historical novel that rewrites conventional narratives by telling about the Spanish Conquest of North American from the viewpoint of an educated Moroccan Muslim slave.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 23, 2014 1:49 pm

    I’m read this book for the 2014 Africa Reading Challenge, and I’m so glad I did because it’s beautifully written. I hope to read more of her books in the future. Excellent review by the way!


  1. Secret Son, by Laila Lalami. | Me, you, and books

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