Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits was written by Laila Lalami, who was born and raised in Morocco. As the story opens, we meet four Moroccans—Murad, Halima, Aziz, and Faten—attempting to cross the border from Morocco to Spain via the Strait of Gibraltar. These four are part of a larger group aboard an overloaded, flimsy boat, and all is going according to plan until the captain announces that he will not ferry the passengers to shore. The Moroccans struggle to make it to shore, and upon arrival, all except Aziz are caught and jailed.
The book is more of a collection of short stories than a novel with a cohesive plot. After the harrowing crossing of the Strait of Gibraltar in the first chapter, readers are taken back to Morocco to the events that led to the characters' decisions to emigrate, as well as forward in time to the characters’ lives following the crossing.
Murad is the first character whose story is introduced, as he is the narrator of the book. He is an affable and intelligent man with a college degree who feels stifled at home. Murad is working as an ad-hoc tourist guide for rich travelers, especially those interested in American novelist Paul Bowles, who famously wrote The Sheltering Sky in 1949, when he and his wife lived in Tangier. Murad, who is making very little money, feels that he is destined for greater things. He is also weary of living an impoverished life and fantasizes about the material wealth he may be able to gain in Europe.
The next character introduced is Halima, the mother of three children and the wife of an abusive husband. Halima is intent on escaping her relationship with her husband, who constantly mistreats her. Since Halima also has young children and is in a precarious financial position, leaving her husband—and Casablanca—is easier said than done.
The third character whose story is introduced is Aziz, a young man who decides that he must risk the journey to...
(The entire section is 686 words.)