As featured in the Skimm, on Late Night with Seth Meyers, Fresh Air, PBS Newshour, the cover of the New York Times Book Review, and more, an astonishingly visionary love story that imagines the forces that drive ordinary people from their homes into the uncertain embrace of new lands.
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. . . . Exit West follows these remarkable characters as they emerge into an alien and uncertain future, struggling to hold on to each other, to their past, to the very sense of who they are. Profoundly intimate and powerfully inventive, it tells an unforgettable story of love, loyalty, and courage that is both completely of our time and for all time.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2017-01-02
- Reviewer: Staff
Hamids (The Reluctant Fundamentalist, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia) trim yet poignant fourth novel addresses similar themes as his previous work and presents a unique perspective on the global refugee crisis. In an unidentified country, young Saeed and burqa-wearing Nadia flee their home after Saeeds mother is killed by a stray bullet and their city turns increasingly dangerous due to worsening violent clashes between the government and guerillas. The couple joins other migrants traveling to safer havens via carefully guarded doors. Through one door, they wind up in a crowded camp on the Greek Island of Mykonos. Through another, they secure a private room in an abandoned London mansion populated mostly by displaced Nigerians. A third door takes them to Californias Marin County. In each location, their relationship is by turns strengthened and tested by their struggle to find food, adequate shelter, and a sense of belonging among emigrant communities. Hamids storytelling is stripped down, and the books sweeping allegory is timely and resonant. Of particular importance is the contrast between the migrants tenuous daily reality and that of the privileged second- or third-generation native population whod prefer their new alien neighbors to simply disappear. Agent: Jay Mandel, WME Entertainment. (Mar.)
A timely, satirical love story
The novels of Mohsin Hamid (How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia) range from conventionally structured stories to fiction disguised as self-help manuals. In his fourth novel, Exit West, Hamid explores the worldwide refugee crisis using simple, almost allegorical language spiced with an unexpected dose of speculative fiction. The novel follows a young couple who join a wave of migrants as their city collapses into violence. But in Hamid’s imagined world, there are doorways that lead from one city to another and allow people (mostly dark skinned) to emerge magically in other countries (mostly Western), much to the consternation of the (mostly light skinned) resident population.
Like all of Hamid’s novels, Exit West is a love story, but one that exists within the structure of a moral thriller. Bold and curious Nadia meets the quieter, more restrained Saeed in night class while the unnamed country where they reside teeters on the brink of a civil war. Their attraction is immediate, and their path to intimacy is made more intoxicating by the dangers around them. At first, their relationship is like many other young couples’; they listen to music, sit in cafes and smoke a little weed. But when Saeed’s mother is hit by a stray bullet, the couple decides to move in together. They also begin to heed the rumors about doors that serve as portals from one country to another. Making the ultimate decision to leave their homeland, and paying a middleman a hefty sum, Saeed and Nadia are led to a door that takes them to a refugee camp on a Greek Island. Later doors lead to a private room in an abandoned mansion outside London and then a windswept coast in Marin County, California. Each move tests the couple’s stamina and courage, and although they are dependent on one another for survival, the ties that bind them grow weaker with every transition.
Exit West is political without being didactic and romantic without being maudlin. The storytelling is stripped down to essentials; though the novel is epic in scope and geography, it is only 240 pages. Hamid masterfully handles the shifts from the symbolic to the real, the unnamed to the specific. Exit West is a richly imaginative work with a firm grip on what is happening to someone somewhere right this minute.