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Exit West
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Archive: Other Books > Exit West/Hamid - 4 stars

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Anita Pomerantz | 6276 comments Ah, the prose . . .if I were rating this book on prose alone, it's five star all the way. Hamid could write nearly anything, and after this, I would pick it up. It's not hard to read, but just so well constructed and evocative. Loved reading this book.

Hamid hangs the structure of the book on a young couple, newly in love - Nadia and Saeed. They live in a war torn country where civil strife is on the rise. The book follows the story of this couple through multiple relocations, and as they move, their relationship changes in interesting ways. The author makes fascinating choices throughout. One of them is not to address the challenges of travel, but to use a magical realism device to transport Nadia and Saeed from location to location.

Here's where I knock off a star. Let's be realistic here. I'm not likely to give a book with magical realism components that fifth star because I just don't appreciate it at all. It puzzles me. I never quite understand the point. It's not whimsical, like say Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, nor carry-me-to-another-world, like Harry Potter. In this book, I think the author did have some recognition that spelling out the travel arrangements of the protagonists from location to location would simply be boring and detract from the story he wanted to tell. So there was a clear purpose for making the literary choice he did. But, I find it distracting nonetheless. In this book, I struggled to determine if (view spoiler). This is just how my mind works, and I have trouble letting it go.

Which is a darn shame because I loved the love story presented here. Hamid digs deeper on how love and need can be intertwined and how external forces can shape it. It was original, and I truly enjoyed watching the evolution of the relationship between Nadia and Saeed. In addition, Hamid's story is very much of the moment with its focus on refugees in peril, but in the end, it seems to be going beyond that into something more dystopian.

It's a very intriguing book, and one I would HIGHLY recommend for book clubs.


Nicole R (drnicoler) | 7715 comments I am glad you liked it! I thought the magical realism component would detract a bit for you, but knew you would love the writing!

Your darn overanalytical brain.... ;)


Anita Pomerantz | 6276 comments Nicole R wrote: "I am glad you liked it! I thought the magical realism component would detract a bit for you, but knew you would love the writing!

Your darn overanalytical brain.... ;)"


The writing was amazing. And I really enjoyed the relationship storyline very much. It would have been five stars without the whole door situation. It just makes me have way too many questions!!


message 4: by Jen (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jen | 1545 comments I was curious if you would be really bothered by the magical realism because I thought it was really subtle and not to distracting. I did love the book but I also love magical realism.


Anita Pomerantz | 6276 comments Jen wrote: "I was curious if you would be really bothered by the magical realism because I thought it was really subtle and not to distracting. I did love the book but I also love magical realism."

It definitely was more subtle (thank goodness), but somehow I still just find the device completely distracting . . .


message 6: by Joi (new) - rated it 4 stars

Joi (missjoious) | 3782 comments So funny we both ended up with 4 stars, but for different reasons. The magical realism didn't bother me- but his "matter of fact" writing knocked it down from five stars for me.

It's interesting the doors aspect didn't bother me from a magical realism aspect-but after mulling on this book for a while (I think it's been about a month since I read)- I feel like the doors are kind of a cop-out to discussing real issues on how HARD the immigration process is- just by glossing over it. On the flip side-how boring would a book be if it just described paperwork process.


Nicole R (drnicoler) | 7715 comments I think that if he would have opted to exclude the "door" aspect and described the immigration process, it would have taken away from the impact of the book. By using a bit of magical realism, it allowed for him to focus on the emotions/relationships after a couple immigrates to a new place.

I appreciated that. I don't think that an author has to describe the full process to do justice to a portion of immigration.

I also thought that he likely accurately described the feeling of going through the immigration process when he described Nadia an Saeed's emotions when deciding whether to leave at all and their experience traveling through the door.

In fact, I thought his description the first time they went through a door was one of the most impactful parts of the book. I thought the metaphor was a brilliant one and allowed him to focus on emotions and not processes.

Just my reflection on the book :)


Booknblues | 5503 comments Anita wrote: "Ah, the prose . . .if I were rating this book on prose alone, it's five star all the way. Hamid could write nearly anything, and after this, I would pick it up. It's not hard to read, but just so w..."

Anita, I'm so glad you liked it and like you, I absolutely loved the prose and want to read more by Hamid for that reason.

Having just finished reading, A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea: One Refugee's Incredible Story of Love, Loss, and Survival about a Syria refugee family, I had a slightly different take on the doors.

I found Saeed and Nadia's situation so similiar to Hoaa's family in that book, that I thought Exit West was about Syria. As for the doors, I think in many ways they are similiar to a refugee's experience escaping a country.

To leave Syria, Hoaa's family had to do everything just right for those that helped them across the border. Once, Hoaa decided to leave Egypt they had to go to a secret apartment and then get in a dump truck and then were driven to the beach. A few people were dropped off in several different places. Eventually some made it to a boat but many were arrested- the door closed. Hoaa was able to make it on board ship on the second try. But once on board they moved from one ship to another several times.

Because of this and In the Sea There are Crocodiles: Based on the True Story of Enaiatollah Akbarianother book I read about the refugee experience, I found the door a very good metaphor.

I did find the worlds and countries created a little unsettling, because the country they were from originally was so realistic. I also felt there was a bit of shift in the prose after they went through the first door. I finally decided that for a refugee, the countries they go to must seem so alien and different.


Susie | 4488 comments I've been waiting to see if you'd be bothered by the magical realism. I'm glad it didn't totally destroy it fir you. And I agree, the prose the prose! I still must get to The Reluctant Fundamentalist.


Booknblues | 5503 comments Susie wrote: " I still must get to The Reluctant Fundamentalist."

Me too!


message 11: by Joi (new) - rated it 4 stars

Joi (missjoious) | 3782 comments Booknblues wrote: "Because of this and In the Sea There are Crocodiles: Based on the True Story of Enaiatollah Akbarianother book I read about the refugee experience, I found the door a very good metaphor."

This actually makes me feel a lot better about the door metaphor.

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia is the Hamid I've really been meaning to read forever.


Booknblues | 5503 comments Joi wrote: "Booknblues wrote: "Because of this and In the Sea There are Crocodiles: Based on the True Story of Enaiatollah Akbarianother book I read about the refugee experience, I found the door a very good m...How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia is the Hamid I've really been meaning to read forever. "

I'm glad it made you feel better.

I think we all need to begin reading some of his books and get the word out.


Anita Pomerantz | 6276 comments I'm not ignoring all these wonderful comments. Just another crazy busy day, but finished moving my son so now I expect to have much more time to devote to my favorite topic!! More tomorrow.


message 14: by AJ (new)

AJ Timberlake (ajtimberlake) | 822 comments I'm really excited to read this book... just as soon as we finish the Prosperous Challenge


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