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Exit West
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message 1: by Amy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Amy (asawatzky) | 1631 comments so let's talk about it....


Gwendolyn | 159 comments This one is one of the four shortlist books I’ve already read. I generally like this author, but this particular novel seemed “thin” to me. The doors concept is interesting, but the plot and characters ultimately felt undeveloped. This is one of the rare cases where I think the book would have been better if it was about 100 pages longer.


Melanie Greene (dakimel) | 236 comments I'd happily have taken another 100 pages of this, but I'm also really happy with it as-is (esp since it's been a few months since I first read it, and I'm more likely to try for a re-read - or skim, at least - before the tournament because it's shorter.)

Hamid makes the distance between personal and global really short, and accessible. It's so cool!


Trudie (trudieb) | 27 comments From a distance I think this novel is better than my initial review of it but I did have a big issue with the execution of the doors. In theory it should have worked but in reading practise I found them rather awkwardly executed - they just appeared and in very convenient locations. I did however greatly enjoy the first section before doors became an issue.


Janet (justjanet) | 630 comments Interesting discussion about the doors.....I thought they facilitated the theme of culture shock.....when you leave one world through a door and arrive in another immediately, there is no journey or transition so the culture shock is greater. Rather brilliant of Hamid when you think about it in that way.


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

Amy (asawatzky) | 1631 comments I thought the doors evened the playing field for countries receiving migrants and refuges. They couldn’t be limited by visas or hardliners closing borders and it wasn’t just the neighboring countries problem anymore.
Suddenly London and California were as overwhelmed as Turkey is now.
On the downside, it makes the act of emigration much safer than it usually is - no boatloads going down, no deserts to cross or no-man’s lands to navigate.


Lagullande | 22 comments Amy wrote: "On the downside, it makes the act of emigration much safer than it usually is - no boatloads going down, no deserts to cross or no-man’s lands to navigate. "

I have seen other readers comment that the dangerous journeys faced by many migrants are completely overlooked in this book. To me, the doors meant that the focus could be on what happens after the journey, from the point of view of both migrants and those already living at the destination. The book wasn't about the awfulness of the actual travelling.


Melanie Greene (dakimel) | 236 comments The excising of travel hardships worked for me the same way Whitehead’s literal railroad did in Underground Railroad - people have a far better chance to be *people* if they’re not focused on those hardships, and the journey becomes about them and about the realities of making their new lives / leaving their old ones.


Trudie (trudieb) | 27 comments I guess for me at least the problem of The Doors was less the fact of them but the execution. I greatly enjoyed Whiteheads Underground Railroad as I thought the railroad was nicely integrated and made sense to me within the novel.

What I struggled with here was partly the door placement, it seemed kind of convenient to make certain points - a house in Kensington, an bayside suburb in San Francisco, Namibia. With no text wasted on attempting to explain the phenomenon at all, they struck me as purely an awkward device ?.


Bryn (Plus Others) (brynplusplus) | 94 comments It just occured to me that the inexplicability of the doors might mirror the inexplicability of immigration laws and processes -- why any given country welcomes some people and refuses others, the tangle of prejudices and red tape and laws -- there is really no rhyme or reason to why a visa is given or refused, why some people are welcomed and others turned away, why one 'refugee crisis' is deemed a crisis and another is discounted or downplayed. As I write about it I am not sure this really holds up, but it still strikes me as possible -- that the doors are simply there, for no reason, with no explanation, and nobody seems to waste any time trying to puzzle it out... no, I don't think it really holds up, but I might have to reread to be sure.


Janet (justjanet) | 630 comments Bryn (Plus Others) wrote: "It just occured to me that the inexplicability of the doors might mirror the inexplicability of immigration laws and processes -- why any given country welcomes some people and refuses others, the ..."

Bryn,
I like that interpretation....Goodreads, when will you give us a "like" button for comments?


Beverly | 298 comments I so enjoy this author's work and I think his books get even better with each new release.

It feels like the author has his finger on the pulse of current issues even before we know all of the complexities of each of these issues.

I agree with Bryn - this latest book reflects all of the complexities those who are fleeing their homelands encounter.

I thought the portal/door technique explained how those fleeing despite what they are being told they are never sure where they are going and need to adjust to where they land and how it is an uneven journey with many years before if they ever land someplace where they are comfortable and it changes each individual in ways they never expected, all along missing their homeland.


message 13: by Lljones (last edited Jan 07, 2018 03:57PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Lljones | 172 comments I've just discovered that my local library (Multnomah Co, Portland, OR) has chosen Exit West as its Everybody Reads 2018 selection. Which means free copies distributed at libraries in February, a lecture visit from Hamid at Literary Arts, etc. Yeah!


Gwendolyn | 159 comments Lljones....very cool. I’m jealous.

I agree with the others that the doors offer a way for Hamid to focus on the post-journey part of immigration (adjusting to a new country, etc.), and that seemed like a good approach to me. There was something about the actual writing, however, that seemed to skim along the surface of these characters’ experiences rather than getting deep into their lives....maybe a certain amount of narrative distance or aloofness? I need to go back for a reread if I have time as I read this one quite awhile ago and may be misremembering.


Claire  | 11 comments I loved this book. As to the doors... to me it felt very alienating. I did not have a problem with it. Migrating is what some of you say: a process where you don’t have any idea about. Where will you end up, how do you get there? By the strangest ways and procedures. Focusing too much on the voyage itself, would take attention from the real subject. People talk a lot about migration and the voyage immigrants go through, but give very little thought on how it must feel to arrive and live in a strange country. It also struck me how each place they came to was further away and kind of more complicated.


Peggy | 153 comments Just finished listening to this one and thought it was...fine. But it could have been amazing. I adored the first part and was into the characters and seeing them try to figure out their violently changing circumstances.

Then the doors. I understand them as a device and how it enable Hamid to focus on the aftermath of being forced to flee, but the story thinned out (someone here said it felt "thin" and I agree) and I just didn't care nearly as much about the characters. It didn't give me the connections to or insights about migration that I wanted at all. I needed more.


Dianah (fig2) | 255 comments I found the doors a terrifying obstacle; they had to step blindly into a void, having no idea what was on the other side. That felt paralyzing to me.


message 18: by Chev (new) - rated it 3 stars

Chev | 4 comments I thought the doors were an interesting concept. migration and refugee laws be damned. The execution of the doors was absurd. One day closet portal? And it just works out cause social media say so, gross. I actually really enjoyed the story and characters.


Kelly | 28 comments The doors here felt like even more of a shortcut than UR. Also, in UR, that was a real reference to a real thing, even if not a literal railroad - and the journey was more allegorical and history hopping in UR than here, where it felt like the author was finding a convenient way for the same couple to realize three different versions of the refugee experience.

I just didn't connect with this novel very much. I think part of the problem was that Said and Nadia seemed inherently incompatible to me - even if everything hadn't happened to them, I still think they would have broken up. I never got the epic love story feels, and so I didn't really care that much when they ended.


Joshua (joshua2001) | 16 comments Just finished this one.

The part of the book that stood out the most to me was the narrator. He/she almost flaunts their omniscience by telling us what will happen to minor characters. I really enjoyed the feel of the book that the author created through that (like the description of the mushroom supplier). I can't articulate how it made me feel exactly but it was really interesting. Near the end of the book, he states that we are all refugees through time, and my thoughts returned to the beginning of the book and how the narrator handled time.

The doors are a mixed bag for me. I would have liked more exploration of how it upended the geo-political structure. Did having doors vs a traditional refugee experience make a difference for Said and Nadia? I don't think so. So it felt like a bit of a missed opportunity.

While I liked the book, I I wanted to love it, but I can't. I want a novel that is about the human experience in a deeply insightful way. Hamid slightly missed the mark on that, for me. Maybe it was too short. The writing really stood out for me, though.


Brandon L | 10 comments Started and finished this book in one sitting. I loved it. I didn't have any problems with the doors that people are discussing. I agree that it helped limit the focus on the experience of refugees and immigrants in the places they wound up rather than on the journey itself (which is ably explored in other fiction).

The power of this novel I think is in the careful structure of the characters, the sketching of them so intricately so they almost appear as stock characters in a fable or in a fairy tale, but then exhibit such specificity that they could only be themselves. Hasin is very attenuated to the ways that people connect, and the barriers they throw up for themselves (like Saeed's religious devotion to virginity), for others (Nadia's robes), and for other communities (the ever present drones and guards around doors to wealthy countries). The atmosphere here is key as people go along living their lives but then are reminded of their broader existence and context, and the political weight it holds, when they would rather not talk or discuss that. I found that incredibly compelling, and relevant. For better or for worse, I think this is the book that could be read by a large audience to develop interest and empathy for refugees and immigrants when folks previously may not have had it.


message 22: by Amy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Amy (asawatzky) | 1631 comments Thanks Brandon - nicely put. I also just loved the lyricism of the language and descriptions - it wasn’t overly flowery but it made the characters very human for me, and the places experienced through my senses. It was surprising to me to “read” (I listened- Hamid is a great narrator) such a beautiful book about such a serious topic.


message 23: by Megan (new) - added it

Megan (gentlyread) | 67 comments I liked this book a lot. I really appreciate the comments here pointing out how the doors de-emphasize the actual journey aspect of migration, allowing Hamid to center his story elsewhere.

Writing-wise, I started off the book irritated by all those overly long, run-on sentences, but I fell into & started appreciating their rhythm, and the thematic work being done at the sentence level: those long, run-on sentences echoed the situations in the book with their uncontrollability, and how they ended up in places unexpected and unlikely-to-be-connected from where they started. At times, those sentences felt to me like they were afraid to let go of where they started, afraid to stop moving, afraid of ending, grabbing on to all details and to as many connections as possible, and all that kept me tapped into the emotional vein of the book. (This is the only book I've read by Hamid so far, so maybe he just really likes long, run-on sentences, but I thought they very much pulled their weight here!)

I also really enjoyed those short interludes about other people and their relationships to the doors. The section about the elderly men from Amsterdam and Brazil! And the mother who returns for her daughter in Mexico!


Ruthiella | 331 comments Megan wrote: "Writing-wise, I started off the book irritated by all those overly long, run-on sentences, but I fell into & started appreciating their rhythm, and the thematic work being done at the sentence level: those long, run-on sentences echoed the situations in the book with their uncontrollability, and how they ended up in places unexpected and unlikely-to-be-connected from where they started."

That is a very interesting observation! I think you are right that the run ons were intentional. I have read The Reluctant Fundamentalist and How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia and I don't think Hamid used that kind of writing technique in either (though it has been a while since I read them and I don't have either book in front of me). I think the writing in Rising Asia was definitely more punchy, as it is sort of modeled after a self-help tome.


message 25: by Megan (new) - added it

Megan (gentlyread) | 67 comments Thanks for confirming that, Ruthiella. Exit West had such a "once upon a time..." feel to its tone, I can't imagine that same tone/style working for the kind of projects that his other two novels seem to be. I'm looking forward to reading them!


Melanie Greene (dakimel) | 236 comments Rising Asia is very different - v wry and punchy and funny. I'm really enjoying exploring the different tones Hamid strikes in his works.


Kristin-Leigh (okrysmastree) | 58 comments I really liked this - both taken as a fairy tale (ie, a magical-realistic take on immigrant/refugee experiences today) and as more of a sci-fi/speculative fiction work (ie, an examination of how society would evolve if teleportation between 2 points became possible). The evolution of Nadia and Saeed's relationship was really nice.

If I had one critique it would be on the speculative fiction angle - I wish there was more information provided about these doors and where they came from/who controlled them (or whether they were simply some kind of random natural force). The idea of large groups of people emigrating instantly all at once is really interesting, and I'm not sure the mechanic NEEDED to be explored more deeply, but I wanted it!

There was a lot of little stuff I really enjoyed, on the other side - the way such rapid and easy migration led to even the framing and definition of citizenship shifting was cool. Putting the othering labels on locals ("natives") rather than the immigrants was cool and really did change the way certain scenes read (comparing against how a description would have come across if there'd been "a British foreman" rather than "a native foreman").


message 28: by Bretnie (new)

Bretnie | 436 comments Just finished and liked it, but kind of wanted more. Maybe coming off of too many short reads and was hoping for something more substantial out of it. I liked it, but I don't think it has anything on The Animators. Although how the tournament is going so far, I shouldn't count on it!


Elizabeth Arnold | 705 comments Janet wrote: "Hamid interview.....https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/exi..."

Great interview! (And he talks to many of the issues readers here criticized.) Thanks for the link!


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