Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
  Book Reviews    March 5, 2017     Eric Larkin


This much anticipated novel from the author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist is a love story. Saeed and Nadia meet in their home country; though never named, it feels like a recent Syria or Iraq. While their community is being overcome by sectarian violence, they find dangerous companionship in each other. Like in any good love story, their relationship contains many contrasts: religious -vs- non-religious, independent -vs- family-oriented, and so on. There is also an interesting contrast within the world Hamid creates for them. On one hand, there’s the chaos and brutality of war which is very grounded in reality. However, there’s also a fantastical element of literal doorways thru which the characters can move and are then transported instantaneously to other parts of the world. It’s a great device, as it keeps the story focused on Nadia and Saeed living in cramped circumstances – how else to study a serious relationship? – as opposed to following them on the move.  It also works as a symbol of how desperate a gamble it is when refugees flee terror into the unknown: step thru a doorway, get on a boat, cross a border, trust someone – can you really control where you end up? (Note that it is the same in any real-life love story.) The stress and brokenness of the refugee experience and the arcs and drifts of relationship give this fast and easy read a lot of substance. Highly recommended. 


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