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Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits Hardcover – October 7, 2005

4.6 out of 5 stars 45 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits, Laila Lalami's poetic debut, begins with the illegal journey of four Moroccans across the Strait of Gibraltar. Moments away from the shores of Spain, the boat capsizes and the passengers are forced to swim for their lives, and their freedom. What follows is an exploration of the pasts that led to this passage, and the futures that emerge from this voyage.

Less a novel than a series of biographical sketches, the book seems at times like a tease; Lalami does such a beautiful job creating her characters that readers will undoubtedly be left wanting more. Still, each portrait gives us a chance to not only engage with the character, but to gain an understanding of the religious, socio-economic, and emotional circumstances that compel each person to leave Morocco. Faten, a student who dons the hijab, is forced to flee when her religious beliefs start threatening the lives of influential educators. Murad, a serious, educated young man chances the crossing in search of a better life, where he doesn't have to hustle tourists to make a living. In each scene, Lalami bring Moroccan culture to life, from the tree-lined suburbs of Rabat to the Douar Lhajja slum, "where couscous pots were used as satellite dishes."

With Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits, Lalami creates a world that is both modern and traditional, hopeful and desperate, mournful and joyous. Readers can look forward to much more from this talented new voice. --Gisele Toueg

From Publishers Weekly

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.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 195 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books (October 7, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565124936
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565124936
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.8 x 7.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #746,210 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A. Ross HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 11, 2006
Format: Hardcover
The immigrant story is a fundamental theme in literature, and all too often, individual attempts to explore it are suffocated by the weight of all the examples one has to compare it to. Here, Lalami offers a refreshing (and much needed) perspective on the topic in her short debut, showing a cross-section of Moroccans seeking a better life in the Western world. Its opening section, "The Trip", throws us into the midst of a motorboat of huddled people who've paid an unscrupulous human trafficker to take them across the Strait of Gibraltar to the Spanish coast. The trip ends badly and Lalami then flashes back in time to four vignettes grouped in a section called "Before."

Here we learn about the lives of four of the boat's passengers and discover why they embark on the dangerous, desperate attempt to sneak into Spain. Like illegal immigrants around the world they know the odds are well-stacked against them, and yet hope to become one of success stories whose good fortune is recounted back home, ensuring a fresh wave of fortune-seekers. Newly married Aziz hopes to work hard and send money back home for a few years, building a nest egg on which to start some kind of small business. Murad is an educated English-speaking book lover, reduced to trying to be a freelance guide for Westerners on the trail of Paul Bowles. Halima is a mother of three, living in slums and married to an abusive drunk, she just can't take it any more. Faten is a devout teenage girl who gets into trouble at school and has no prospects.

The third section of the book is "After", and this is where we learn what has become of the characters following their ill-fated attempt. For those who eventually make it, the dream is not all they had hoped for.
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Format: Hardcover
If you're a writer and you've tried to sell a book, maybe you've heard this: Story collections don't sell. Make it a novel. Make it 250 pages, maybe 300. Put the story in chronological order. Bring it to closure.

Imagine a publisher willing to break these rules and allow the writer to publish their work as it evolved naturally?

[...] (Algonquin, October 2005) is 195 glorious pages of inter-linked stories told in her third language.

The beauty and brilliance of this collection is in its unique shape. It begins with The Trip, and a raft full of Moroccans fleeing their home land for Spain. The strangers have saved and borrowed for the illegal ride and, when the shoreline is in sight, are abruptly thrown from the boat (the boat's driver doesn't want to get caught). Not all are swimmers, and they know all the commotion in the water will bring the Spanish Customs officials. It's chaos, and I'm pulled in, wondering, Who would risk such a thing?

The stories are then organized into two sections: Before and After. In the first set, we follow four individuals before they left Morocco to discover their very personal reasons for fleeing their current lives. There is teenage Faten Khatibi, who her wealthy friend's parents consider a fanatic because she's convinced their daughter Noura to wear the hijab and quote from the Qu'ran. Halima Bouhamsa, living in the slums, hopes for a divorce from her abusive husband that won't result in losing custody of her children. Aziz Ammor, unemployed, has decided to leave his wife and family so that he might send them money and ease their lives. And Murad Idrissi, envying the tourists he hustles for "the nonchalance in [their] demeanor, free from the burden of survival" (p.
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Format: Hardcover
So many of us know Laila Lalami through her blog, Moorishgirl.com, which reflects her Moroccan roots by often covering-and confronting-literary news relating to the "other" in our society. Specifically, Lalami has accorded non-Christian and non-white writers the kind of respect and analysis not usually offered in the "mainstream" press or even most blogs, for that matter. If this were Lalami's sole contribution to the literary world, she would have much of which to be proud. But now she brings us her first book, Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill), a collection of interlocking stories, which also reflects her connections to Morocco. The structure of Lalami's collection is as elegant as it is powerful. The title story, "The Trip," serves as a prologue where she introduces us to the four main characters who will reappear in the eight subsequent stories. It is dark and cold as four Moroccans huddle with twenty-six others in small boat-a six-meter Zodiac inflatable meant to accommodate eight people-to cross the Strait of Gibraltar. Their hope: to avoid the watchful eye of the authorities as they travel fourteen kilometers to their haven, Spain. Lalami captures with clear and revealing language the brutality of the smugglers and the desperation of their human cargo. The collection is then divided into two parts. In the first, entitled Before, we see what drove Lalami's characters to risk their lives to escape Morocco. In these stories, we see the how desperate circumstances must get before one decides to leave home, perhaps forever. In the second part of the collection (entitled After), we see how the lives of our four protagonists change after their desperate voyage across the Strait of Gibraltar. These stories will surprise the reader.Read more ›
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