Book Review: Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
Published March 2017
One sentence summary:
As their romance grows, Nadia and Saeed must set out for a new home as theirs is destroyed by war.
Nadia and Saeed are different people.
She rides a motorcycle and adheres to more progressive ways of thinking. Saeed still lives at home with his parents and continues in tradition and propriety. But still, they come together.
The war that is the backdrop of their lives comes more and more to the forefront. It imposes itself into their lives and overtakes them, forcing them out of their home and into a new life.
Where do you go when there is no more home? Unfortunately, itâ€™s a real question that people must face as we see refugees fleeing from war-torn countries. Where do they go? How do they start over with nothing? How do they even get anywhere for that new start when some of the best options donâ€™t allow entry?
In Exit West, the escape routes are fantastical and heavily guarded.
There are doors that lead to other worlds. Worlds that can take them away from sleeping on the dirt, away from the constant fear of theft or rape, away from the constant hunger.
If we want to go metaphorical, we could liken the doors to the choices we face in life. Weâ€™re all Alice going down the rabbit hole, plunging into unknown adventures.
Or we could go a different direction and compare the doors to elite privilege. Refugees and commoners need not apply; theyâ€™re not welcome there.
Regardless of where the doors go, Nadia and Saeed find amid the constant struggle that theyâ€™re growing away from each other.
Exit West is matter of fact in its descriptions; not over dramatic. There’s no swell of orchestral music as Nadia and Saeed kiss each other with more and more fervor. We donâ€™t see Scarlett Oâ€™Hara staggering across a burning field and shaking her fist at the fates as she screams sheâ€™ll never be hungry again.
We do see dirt. Survival. Personal growth and development, even in a setting where oneâ€™s self is easily lost.
We see an existence that could have been but wasnâ€™t.