Moroccan born Laila Lalami is known internationally for her blog, www.moorishgirl.com, and is author of the acclaimed short story collection Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits. Shortlisted for the Caine Prize for African Writing and recipient of an Oregon Literary Arts grant and Fulbright Fellowship, her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Boston Globe.
The tragic loss of hope is the theme of this powerful debut novel from Morocco-born Lalami, author of the highly regarded story collection Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits. University student Youssef El-Mekki studies English while living with his mother in the squalid slums of Hay An Najat. The handsome, blue-eyed Youssef has always been told that his father is dead. But when he comes across a photo of Nabil Amrani, a wealthy businessman who looks just like him, Youssef immediately realizes that this man truly is his father. Youssef reunites with Nabil and is given a job at Nabil's luxury hotel, and he thinks his future is secure. But his mother intervenes, leaving him jobless, and he is eventually recruited by a fundamentalist group to assassinate an outspoken journalist. The culture and politics of contemporary Morocco are well displayed in this beautifully written tale, with the talented Lalami deftly portraying Youssef's struggles for identity, work, and family. A brilliant story of alienation and desperation that easily transports readers to hot, dusty Casablanca; highly recommended.-Lisa Rohrbaugh, New Middletown, OH Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.
Lalami's unpolished first novel (after story collection Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits) follows Youssef El Mekki, a 19-year-old living in the slums of Casablanca who learns that his father-believed to be dead-is alive. The news precipitates Youssef's quest to find his father, who turns out to be the rich, well-connected businessman Nabil Amrani. The two meet just as a rift has developed between Nabil and his daughter, Amal, who is studying in America. Once Nabil invites Youssef back into his life, Youssef suddenly has all the luxuries he has ever dreamed about: a new apartment in the best neighborhood and a decent job. But just as quickly, it is all taken away, and when Youssef returns to his old neighborhood-now the headquarters of a fringe Islamist group-he finds himself embroiled in a dangerous conspiracy. Unfortunately, Lalami riddles the book with uninspired descriptions and observations; Youssef and Nabril are less than distinctive; and the climax lacks impact. It all seems perfunctory. (Apr.) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
A "powerful debut novel. . . .The culture and politics of contemporary Morocco are well displayed in this beautifully written tale, with the talented Lalami deftly portraying Youssef's struggles for identity, work, and family. A brilliant story of alienation and desperation that easily transports readers to hot, dusty Casablanca; highly recommended."-Library Journal, starred review