Justin Matott's Reviews > Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits

Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits by Laila Lalami
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Sep 08, 08

Read in January, 2006


• Plot in a nutshell: From separate walks of life, four Moroccan main characters' stories are linked in their desperation to illegally immigrate to Spain across the Strait of Gibraltar to find better employment and better conditions for themselves and their families. The book opens with the treacherous journey in a raft, and focuses on Faten, Noura, Halima and Aziz, then moves backwards to the events that brought them there.
The story follows their lives as they struggle to make their way in a strange land combating prejudice and squalor. As usual, when trying to escape one's problems, other problems are created.
• Sample of prose: "Larbi Amrani didn't consider himself a superstitious man, but when the prayer beads that hung on his rearview mirror broke, he found himself worrying that this could be an omen. His mother had given him the sandalwood beads on his college graduation, shortly before her death, advising him to use them often and well. At first Larbi had carried the beads in his pocket, fingered them after every prayer, but as the years went by he'd used them with decreasing regularity, until one day they ended up as decoration in his car. Now they lay scattered, amber dots on the black floor mats."
• Author reminds me of: T. C. Boyle in his wonderful book The Tortilla Curtain, in the way he was able to capture the plight and desperation of illegal immigrants, allowing readers inside their heads and lives.
• Best reason to read: This well-written "journal" is a reminder that, in spite of religious and cultural differences, we all have the same wants and needs under the skin - a timely topic in this age when the Iraq war and Hurricane Katrina have taken center stage.
Justin Matott

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