Publisher: Algonquin Books
Published: October 2005
Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits, the debut of Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award finalist Laila Lalami, evokes the grit and enduring grace that is modern Morocco. The book begins as four Moroccans illegally cross the Strait of Gibraltar in an inflatable boat headed for Spain. What has driven them to risk their lives? And will the rewards prove to be worth the danger?
Sensitively written with beauty and boldness, this is a gripping book about what propels people to risk their lives in search of a better future.
There have been numerous discussions about illegal immigration. The politics of it all. Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits by Laila Lalami explores the human side. Why do people immigrate? In hope of a better life that is often elusive? To avoid political or religious persecution? At the end of the day, is it all worth it? Although first published in 2005, the book is as relevant today.
“He’d been so consumed with his imagined future that he hadn’t noticed how it had started to overtake something inside him, bit by bit. He’d been living in the future, thinking of all his tomorrows in a better place, never realizing that his past was drifting… He wondered if one always had to sacrifice the past for the future.”
The book primarily follows four immigrants illegally crossing the Strait of Gibraltar in an inflatable boat headed for Spain. It can be considered a compilation of interlinked short stories. It is divided into three sections – the trip, before, and after. We are made privy to the circumstances that have resulted in the decision to migrate. And if they do make it.
Murad is an unemployed university graduate hoping for a better life. Halima is a victim of domestic abuse. A mother of three, she undertakes a hazardous journey to provide a better future to her children. Faten is a student and a radical forced to flee. Aziz is another unemployed youth hoping for a better life, leaving behind a wife. Each character is well etched.
The writing is simple. It picks on social issues, unemployment, poverty, and radicalization in a subtle manner. The book is as much about Morocco too. The life, the culture, and more importantly, the contrasts. The difference between the haves and the have-nots.
He wondered how fourteen kilometers could separate not just two countries but two universes.
The author does not romanticize. It is a stark and realistic look at immigration. When hopes are dashed, and an individual makes peace with the decision. All is not rosy on the other side of the fence. And also the disconnect with the family back home.
As much as I liked the book, it left me wanting more. There were also a few loose ends. That said, do pick up the book simply for the empathetic look at immigration and human resilience.Blog Tour: Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits by Laila Lalami #HopeAndOtherDangerousPursuits @LailaLalami @AlgonquinBooks #BookReview Click To Tweet
About the author
Laila Lalami was born in Rabat and educated in Morocco, Great Britain, and the United States, a background that informs her nuanced understanding of the human condition. She is a winner of the American Book Award, the Arab-American Book Award, the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and the National Book Award in Fiction. She has received fellowships from the British Council, the Fulbright Program, and the Guggenheim Foundation and is currently a tenured professor of creative writing at the University of California at Riverside. Even more importantly, she is a champion for African stories and own-voice narratives.
I would like to thank Algonquin Books for providing a digital copy of the book for the blog tour. All opinions are my own.
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