Maura Elizabeth's Reviews > Exit West

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
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it was amazing

Although I had seen some positive reviews of Exit West when it was published a few months ago, I didn’t really plan to read it; I was turned off by the reviewers’ description of the book as magical realism, which I generally dislike. But one of my cousins and I have very similar taste in books, and she mentioned that she found Exit West so engrossing that she stayed up late one night just to finish it. That moved the book a few slots up my to-be-read list, but it still hovered around the middle—until I stopped by the library one day and saw Exit West on the “Up for Grabs” shelf, and realized that it was much shorter than I’d anticipated. Free to borrow AND a quick read? Okay, I’ll give it a shot.

I was hooked from page 1.

Mohsin Hamid does a fantastic job of conveying what it’s like to live in a country where violence and extremism have gradually—before anyone even realizes it—taken over and displaced previous rhythms of life. At first the main characters, boyfriend Saeed and girlfriend Nadia, think that they can keep on as before, making minor adjustments to accommodate new rules and restrictions and outbursts of violence. But over time the situation grows worse and worse, until the only decision left to make is a difficult one: stay or go?

Those doors, the element of magical realism that I thought I would hate, provide Saeed and Nadia exit from their unnamed war-torn country, and they’re such a small part of the plot that they didn’t bother me at all. The doors are my kind of magical realism—incredible but not absurd, and they don’t distract from the larger story that Hamid is telling.

That story is of Saeed and Nadia’s adjustment to their lives as refugees, and how that experience changes them and their relationship. Hamid explores how local populations react to the large-scale arrival of refugees, and the outcome that he predicts is perhaps a more hopeful one than we could assume given the increasing barriers being thrown up in the world today.

Hamid’s writing style is not quite stream-of-consciousness, but he’s fond of long, intense sentences. This style conveys the sense of urgency and movement that flows through Exit West as Saeed and Nadia press forward with rebuilding their lives each time they pass through another set of magical doors. That urgency kept me turning the pages, eager to find out what would happen at Saeed and Nadia’s next destination. Though the book has a low page count, Hamid packs a ton of story into it, producing a brief yet intense and extraordinary reading experience that I’m glad I didn’t miss after all.

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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
April 30, 2017 – Shelved

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