Len's Reviews > Exit West

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
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really liked it

Exit West made pretty much every "best of 2017" list so suffice it to say it's a wonderful book. What I liked most about it was how Hamid tells a cautionary tale without preaching. He could very easily have set the book in Syria or Pakistan, but he chose to set it in a nameless country and by doing so he leaves the politics out. Instead, he gives us a refugee story that could be from anywhere and that is, I think, his ultimate point. Saeed and Nadia are just vehicles for Hamid to encourage the reader to step into the shoes of normal people in a normal place. The couple represents one person who is more devout, though not fundamentalist, and another who is less devout to the point of being modern. Saeed and Nadia could be any of us, and as war breaks out in their country they are driven to flee for safety. Hamid doesn't make this story about religion, or politics as I said, but about a non-descript war which makes the reader feel as if this could happen to them.

Once Nadia and Saeed decide to flee, Hamid uses a little magical realism to help them escape and in doing so takes the reader to a world in the not-too-distant future in which refugees are part of the landscape in every modern country. The story becomes more about a world where humans are forced to live with people who are different, and it's easy to imagine this future coming to fruition. In a world where everyone is a refugee at some point, it's much more likely that we all end up figuring out how to live together. Ultimately I think this book is optimistic in that way rather than dystopian, and Hamid certainly could have gone there. I'm glad he didn't because imagining a world where we all live together makes this book special.

What we've seen out of Syria may have a political/religious cause, but this story could just as well have been written about people fleeing hunger, or war, or climate change. It's prescient really, or at the very least it does a great job of bringing what so many of us in the west see as a Middle Eastern or Northern African issue to us. Hamid is correct in that displacement of any kind is all too common now and will become even more common in the near future and how civilization responds to this movement will tell a lot about who we are as a species. I sure hope we're welcoming to each other.
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Reading Progress

December 5, 2017 – Shelved
December 5, 2017 – Shelved as: to-read
April 4, 2018 – Started Reading
April 19, 2018 – Finished Reading

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