Last updated on September 22nd, 2022
Featured image: A white mosque in Casablanca, Morocco / Photo by Rawpixel on Envato
When a robbery sets off a chain of events
by Carolyn Ray, JourneyWoman
In December 2014, I spent two weeks travelling around the Kingdom of Morocco: Casablanca, Fez, Rabat, Menkes, Marrakech, Chefchaouen and places in between. One of the most awe-inspiring moments was in Casablanca, visiting the Hassan II Mosque, the largest functioning mosque in Africa and the 7th largest in the world. Completed in 1993, it was designed by Michel Pinseau under the guidance of King Hassan II and built by Moroccan artisans from all over the kingdom.
Unlike Vida’s unnamed character in “The Diver’s Clothes Life Empty”, I didn’t have any negative experiences while there, but reading the first chapter, I have to admit to feeling some anxiety. The storyline starts when a woman travelling alone is robbed in Casablanca within moments of arriving on an overnight flight – losing her passport, cash, credit cards, laptop and more – setting off a chain of noir events.
“part glamorous travelogue, part slow-burn mystery.. and insanely funny”
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“The Divers Clothes Lie Empty” — About the Author, Vendela Vida
Vendela Vida is the award-winning author of six books, including Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name and The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty. Her new novel, We Run the Tides, is a national bestseller. She is a founding editor of The Believer and coeditor of The Believer Book of Writers Talking to Writers and Confidence, or the Appearance of Confidence, a collection of interviews with musicians. She was a founding board member of 826 Valencia, the San Francisco writing center for youth, and lives in the Bay Area with her family. Learn more about Vendela on her website here.
Special Guest Speaker: Sama Abdi
Intrepid Travel’s Global Social Media Manager, Sama Abdi, will be joining our discussion to share her thoughts on traveling to Morocco, as well as Intrepid’s popular Morocco tours including:
- Best of Morocco – learn more here
Book Club Discussion Questions (Wednesday, September 21, 2022, 8 pm EDT)
We may not get through all of these, but here are some thoughts to start our discussion!
1. What has your experience with Morocco been prior to this book? Did the setting feel familiar from your own travels there?
2. Could you relate to the opening scene where the heroine loses her backpack? Have you ever felt uncomfortable in a city or place?
3. Do you think that travel is a means of getting away from oneself, or shedding or changing one’s identity a little bit? Have you ever wanted to or tried to re-invent yourself?
4. The story is written in the second person (“you”). Why do you think the author might have chosen this unusual approach? How did this affect your reading of the book?
5. What effect does the location of the novel, Casablanca, have on your impressions of the story? Would the story have worked in other locations?
6. The story’s protagonist has a guidebook, but wishes she had consulted it before planning her itinerary. Many travellers fall into one of two camps: those who delight in using guidebooks and those who abhor them. In which camp do you fall? And if you do use guidebooks, do you tend to read them when planning your trip, or only when you arrive at your destination?
7. The protagonist finds herself relying on long-forgotten schoolgirl French at times. How do you feel about travelling in a country where you don’t speak the language? Is it intimidating, or does it add to the adventure? Do you pick up any phrases before or during your travels?
8. Clothing plays an important role in the novel. In some scenes, the protagonist dresses to mimic the famous actress. In others, her clothing affects how people treat her – from hotel staff to the people on Casablanca’s streets. Do you wear the same clothes when you travel as when you are at home? Does what you wear make a difference to your experience?
9. There are times in the story when the main character feels unsafe – so unsafe, for example, that she leaves hotels without checking out. How much do you think about safety when you plan your trips? Have you ever changed major plans because you feel unsafe?
10. It may be hard to understand why the protagonist does the things she does in the novel such as taking someone else’s backpack and using that person’s credit card. Did your feelings about those actions change after learning about the birth of her niece and husband’s infidelity?
11. What is the nature of identity? Is it what people call you? What makes you “you”? Is it based on place – where you lived and live or the community in which you live or something else? How does acting play into identity?
Featured Articles on Morocco
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Adventurer Alice Morrison’s book is a quest for knowledge, exploring the Salt Route between Morocco and the lost city of Timbuktu.
Contributing writer Diana Eden shares safety tips gleaned from her travels through Morocco with her sister – two Canadians in their 70s who chose to stay in the peaceful oasis of riads as balm to the heat and chaos of a dazzlingly country always in motion.
Your Imagination Can Take You Places
Now more than ever, we’re finding camaraderie and inspiration through novels. Join us each month as we discuss a different book, suggested by our community, about a faraway land.