I have just read the debut novel by the Moroccon-born writer Laila Lalami, who has spent already many years in the United States. She has managed to leave her country of birth and setttle in another place. Others tried but did not succeed.
Some of those who have tried we do meet in her novel. We follow the trails of Halima (and her two sons and daughter) who tries to run away from her abusive husband. Two of her brothers live in France. Single Murad who has a good education (he speaks English and Spanish) cannot find a job and now tries to woo tourists to take him as their guide; he stills lives with his mother and siblings. Unempoyed Aziz is another one, he is married and his wife accepts he tries to leave their country to look for greener pastures in Spain. His good friend Lahcen tries to keep him at home. Faten is another one we encounter; she is a woman who has troubles to finish her studies in a proper way, but she is strict and proper in her life of faith; and she cannot swim. She tries to encourage her friends to follow the strict rules of islam.
We meet all these when they enter a boat to be smuggled into nearby (only fourteen kilometers) Spain. Many other have tried, some have drowned, some have succeded, many others have returned, the dream slipping through their wet fingers. Near the end of the journey the human trafficker forces the hopeful to get out of the boat and swim the last stretch.
In the second part of the book we learn the life stories of these main characters in their life before they embarked on their journey of hope. We see hope in their eyes, some want to run away, some want to run to.
In the third part of the books the four characters are coping with their life after the attempt to leave Morocco and enter Spain. Has their hope materialized? Has a new horizon changed their life? Or are they back to where they started in the first place?
Lail Lalami has written a very good debut. I wanted to know more about these intruiging people as the story unfolded. She kept me captivated with this story of hope, of defeat, of realities and dreams.
Laila Lalami – Hope and other dangerous pursuits – 2005