Exit West more than delivers as a story of two young adults, Saeed and Nadia, with seemingly no more in common than their presence in the middle of a country ravaged by civil war and extremism. As they are drawn together first through passion, then through necessity, Saeed and Nadia struggle to find their place in the world after violence and war rips them from their homes. If you’re looking for a book centered around magical realism, this is definitely not the read for you. Far from the synopsis of the book suggests, Hamid’s Exit West no more than hardly touches on the magical unreality of doors leading into other worlds, as they serve mainly to propel the characters to different places, serving as a metaphor for the migrant experience of displacement and instability. Other than that, I would say that the synopsis is relatively accurate, so go check it out if you are interested!
Although Exit West is a vivid exploration of the reality of the migrant experience, it is just as much about the reality of romantic relationships; Hamid provides the reader with no whimsical cushioning, as Exit West is a brutally honest book about the truths of love and war. Though Hamid’s aims may have been political, his writing does not overtly feel that way. There is something universal, almost existential about his tone, and ultimately, something undoubtedly hopeful as he tackles the broad issue of immigration through the work. Hamid’s sentence structure was beautiful, and I was personally a huge fan of his style (although if you are perverse to the run on sentence, you may quickly run out of patience). Just as there was no manipulation of love or war, there was no manipulation of time; things of great significance happened at the same rate as the most mundane of events, and it left me with a crushing feeling of the fraility of life’s operations, and the unforgiving and unhalting nature of time. Overall, Exit West reminded me a bit of The Alchemist– Hamid writes in the same way that Coehlo does, in the prodding at existential issues with a vague, universal tone, and just like Coehlo, I think Exit West will remain a canonical book for decades to come.
I personally absolutely loved this book. I am a big fan of Middle Eastern writers who write about the modern day Middle East, because I think it’s so incredibly relevant to what is going on in the world today, and I think it provides such an interesting perspective on current events (link to some of my favorite works below). What I particularly loved about Exit West, and what I think truly set it apart from books of similar subjects, was how incredibly timeless it felt. Also, Nadia was so amazing; Hamid really challenges the reader’s perception of the Muslim or Middle Eastern woman with his portrayal of her, and I think her character will impact the way people think of Middle Eastern women on the whole. If you’re thinking of reading this book, I would highly recommend it; more than just being thought provoking, it made me smile and tear up all the way throughout, and I found myself thoroughly invested in the characters, which is quite a feat as the book spans a mere 230 pages. It’s definitely not a cheerful book, but it is strangely hopeful, and absolutely worth a read!
Exit West was one of my favorite books so far in 2017- let me know if you’ve read it, or if you decide to read it! You can purchase the work here.
Moth Smoke by Mohsin Hamid
The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid
The Queue by Basma Abdel Aziz
And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
Sikander by M. Salahuddin Khan