Exit West by Mohsin Hamid– 231 pages
In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet—sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors—doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through.
My Review: 4 stars
Exit West is about the brutalities of war, a tender love story and the issues surrounding migration. Surprisingly, this book will also be shelved in the fantasy genre. I was not expecting that at all. With absolutely no idea what this book was about, I came in with a blank slate, which I think is the best way to read this novel. I’m actually glad I hadn’t read any reviews beforehand.
This book is chockfull of the many harsh realties of having your country be controlled and brutalized by incoming militants, which leads to this rampant migration out of the country. With doors that magically take native countrymen and women running from their unnamed place of origin to locations all over the globe, you must be able to suspend reality to fully enjoy this novel.
A romance blooms early on in the story. This adds a sense of family, of everyday people going to work, or play, that soon become robbed of their rights with the arrival of the militants. Their relationship is symbolic of many women’s issues, especially of female protagonist’s choice to wear a black, head to toe robe, even though she is not religious nor required to wear it.
This is definitely literary fiction and I imagine it will spark much discussion for those who enjoy this type of writing. With a narrator who was omnipresent, had extremely long sentence structure and a writing style that sung; I imagined being told this story from the future, about our world in the past.
Quotes I liked:
He was aware that alone a person is almost nothing.”
-“Location, location, location, the realtors say. Geography is destiny, respond the historians.”
-“One’s relationship to windows now changed in the city. A window was the border through which death was possibly most likely to come.”
-“Saeed was grateful for Nadia’s presence, for the way in which she altered the silences that descended on the apartment, not necessarily filling them with words, but making them less bleak in the their muteness.”
-“She had the bizarre feeling of time bending all around her, as though she was from the past reading about the future, or from the future reading about the past.”
-“But that is the way of things, for when we migrate, we murder from our lives those we leave behind.”