Mohsin Hamid: Exit West

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 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.

For awhile, dystopian fiction was all the rage. Maybe we knew something was coming. Maybe we were trying to prepare ourselves.

Mostly, dystopias have made way for either fantasy–so we can escape; or absolute reality–because we cannot escape it. How could you write a dystopia while living in one?

I feel a little bit like I just read our futures. Take out the magical realism part of the book and Hamid’s story could be just where our world is heading. Whether that is a good or bad thing, I do not know. However, if it does happen, I hope everyone keeps as much humanity as Hamid packed into this story. I think sometimes we get so wrapped up in fighting politics that we forget the actual people behind the reasons we are fighting–and he put it all back in.

I find it interesting that my library has this listed as a “romance” on the binding. I suppose there is an element of love in the beginning, but it is so much more than that. This definitely falls into the Literary Fiction category, and I will not be surprised to see it make awards lists this year.

Exit West is so subtle that to tell too you much about it would give away the whole thing. You will make assumptions along the way–but pay attention. The road is gonna get twisty, but it is well worth the ride.

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