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2016-19 Activities & Challenges > Buddy Read for Exit West - September Trim #3

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message 1: by Meli (new)

Meli (melihooker) | 3162 comments I know there is at least one other person reading Exit West by Mohsin Hamid for their September trim #3, so please join me here to discuss the book!

I am looking forward to this one because it seems to be quite polarizing; readers are either in the love it, hate it, or 'meh it and these are always the most fun to discuss.


message 2: by Theresa (new)

Theresa | 6339 comments Meli wrote: "I know there is at least one other person reading Exit West by Mohsin Hamid for their September trim #3, so please join me here to discuss the book!

I am looking forward to this on..."


That be me. After the drama yesterday of losing my print copy on my way to work, and Jason's ultimate rescue, I have been so swamped with work, I have only managed another chapter. Thus still only up to chapter 5. And I so far am afraid to read it just before bed as my reading heavily influences my sleep. But it will be finished this weekend if not sooner.

This was on my TBR and ended up on my Trim list because a friend recommended it to me a couple years ago. Her entire family loved it - both teenage daughters, husband and wife. Every book that family has recommended has been superb - Eleanor & Park and The Night Circus. Not one of these 3 books is a genre I am drawn to, and I loved the 2 I read already. Exit West has a lot to live up to.

Verdict so far...I am captivated by the writing. The way the more mysterious element is introduced, magical and dangerous, yet in the most delicate and subtle way..- delicious! And I keep going back to the first paragraph of chapter 3 which talks about cellphones, but in a manner that reminds me of something a cultural anthropologist told me once about how something that is ordinary can be described in a way to seem exotic, or another words, it is all about 'spin' or perspective. That paragraph is so effortlessly skilled, it absolutely made me look at my mobile differently for a moment.

I love great writing.


message 3: by Meli (last edited Sep 05, 2019 05:31AM) (new)

Meli (melihooker) | 3162 comments I just realized you are the Tuesday Trauma reader. But it wasn't this book, right?

Sometimes I am bad about reading threads and forgetting or totally missing the author.

Unfortunately I have not started yet. I had a couple other books going, one for IRL book club and another for a buddy read gearing up for the Halloween season, but I think I will start this weekend then I will report back.


message 4: by Amy (new)

Amy | 8305 comments Nope- Tuesday’s Trauma was Theresa for sure! But Jason has saved us all!


message 5: by Theresa (last edited Sep 05, 2019 06:53PM) (new)

Theresa | 6339 comments I absolutely was the Tuesday Trauma reader! Jason charged to the rescue!


message 6: by Meli (new)

Meli (melihooker) | 3162 comments Just went back and re-read the thread, I must have skimmed over the title because I recall not recognizing it, but that can't be the case... damn, total space case sometimes, sorry.

Anyway, I see Jason saved the day! Wonderful 😊

Look forward to the discussion when I dig in.

Double checked my calendar and my IRL book club book is due back to the library next Monday, so I will start after that. Luckily it is short so I should be able to catch up quickly.


message 7: by Theresa (new)

Theresa | 6339 comments Meli wrote: "Just went back and re-read the thread, I must have skimmed over the title because I recall not recognizing it, but that can't be the case... damn, total space case sometimes, sorry.

Anyway, I see..."


Hey, I sometimes don't get to threads for days, or just skim them. We are all busy people...

I'll restrain serious comment until you have a chance to start and catch up. It reads very fast - I'm over 50% and I barely have any reading time. I will say that I can see why it was on the Man Booker finalist list for 2017. I don't understand why it didn't beat out Lincoln on the Bardo.


message 8: by Meli (new)

Meli (melihooker) | 3162 comments There is no use trying to make some logic out of the Man Booker prize in my opinion 😜 I feel like every Man Booker I read is a let down. (in their defense I have only read a few and they've been around forever)


message 9: by Theresa (new)

Theresa | 6339 comments Meli wrote: "There is no use trying to make some logic out of the Man Booker prize in my opinion 😜 I feel like every Man Booker I read is a let down. (in their defense I have only read a few and they've been ar..."

Well, I raged about Hilary Mantel winning twice for her poorly written Cromwell historical series. I've heard a lot of bad about Lincoln on the Bardo -- and it is not one I will read. But I do have Marlon James to read -- and I know he's not to everyone's liking.

I'm in agreement with you. Man Booker seems to award ideas or clever concepts in spite of poor writing. Or that's my perception.

I only have 3 chapters left to read of Exit West - will finish tonight probably. Will hold off posting review on PBT until you have read it, Meli. It is not long and a fast read.


message 10: by Meli (last edited Sep 06, 2019 12:37PM) (new)

Meli (melihooker) | 3162 comments Theresa wrote: "I'm in agreement with you. Man Booker seems to award ideas or clever concepts in spite of poor writing. Or that's my perception."

In my experience the writing hasn't been bad but the story bland or unoriginal despite being advertised to the contrary (The Mars Room for example).

I also like Marlon James! Even though I have only read Black Leopard Red Wolf, did you read that one?

I decided to start Exit West this weekend because I am going to DNF Hell's Princess: The Mystery of Belle Gunness, Butcher of Men. Just don't care anymore...


message 11: by Theresa (new)

Theresa | 6339 comments Meli wrote: "Theresa wrote: "I'm in agreement with you. Man Booker seems to award ideas or clever concepts in spite of poor writing. Or that's my perception."

In my experience the writing hasn't been bad but t..."


I have Black Leopard Red Wolf by Marlon James in one of my TBR towers ... and I am working through A Brief History of Seven Killings - I love the irony of the title. I think I need to start it again now that I have figured out the urban slang used. Sort of like what a friend of mine says about War & Peace - after you read the first 50 or 60 pages and figured out who everyone is and relationship to each other you have to go back and start again to read the story. Seven Killings is like that because of the language.

I've read other short writings and articles by him. He's impressive, unique, a breaker of rules but not just to distinguish himself. I can deal with that.


message 12: by Theresa (new)

Theresa | 6339 comments And Yay, Meli, for starting it this weekend!


message 13: by Theresa (new)

Theresa | 6339 comments I finished very late last night. Wow. I gave it 5 stars immediately, although I will reread the last 2 chapters (very short) before writing a review - I rushed to finish all while fighting falling asleep, thus not savoring the end sufficiently.


message 14: by Meli (last edited Sep 09, 2019 09:02AM) (new)

Meli (melihooker) | 3162 comments I finished this late last night also!

I really liked this book, thought it was a unique premise that offered a lot to unpack, in particular immigration and what it means to be "from" somewhere, what are borders, what purpose do they serve. What does it mean to be a native versus an immigrant.

But I also liked how Hamid dealt with relationships. How people can change as individuals and how this alters a relationship almost imperceptibly.

I was a little bit uninterested at times, but I can't quite pinpoint why which is how I ended up at a 4 instead of 5. But given how short this novel is it's a must-read / high recommend from me.

Why do you think the author purposefully withheld the name of Saeed and Nadia's home country? I considered maybe he wanted to eliminate some preconceived ideas of that country, but of course we can decipher it is in the Middle East and they are Muslim so you already project some ideas onto them anyway... or maybe to eliminate comparing his "home" setting with the real place? In other words, to discourage some commentary on how factual his setting was or wasn't?


message 15: by Theresa (new)

Theresa | 6339 comments I too have been thinking about the lack of defined 'home' for them. I have a few thoughts:

1. what is 'home' is part of what he is exploring so to eliminate knowing exactly where they start already casts them adrift.
2. In truth there are so many places that would fit -- Syria and elsewhere in the middle east of course, but also Pakistan and Bangladesh, areas of Southeast Asia, even back some years to Serbia and Croatia - it's also a way to keep it timeless -- because all the places I list have had civil wars with Muslims on one side or the other -- and some were 20 years ago.
3. To keep it contemporary without pinpointing a specific year.

All of these contribute to the lack of security Nadia & Saeed have, and the loss of identity.


message 16: by Meli (new)

Meli (melihooker) | 3162 comments I think those are all good points. It also eliminates from the conversation / discussion any comparison between the place in the book and the actual place which I like. I think you can specifically name a place like London because it is unlikely to ever not be an attractive destination for migrants, like the US (despite what is happening with immigration in these places currently).

It was interesting when they tried to sympathize with the natives, at least in the sense of what it might be like to suddenly have your country fill up with migrants.

Something I guess I missed or zoned out during, but (view spoiler)


message 17: by Theresa (new)

Theresa | 6339 comments On your spoiler, Meli, there was just a hint as the were leaving Mykonos, nothing overt. I don't do audio (except on long drives for books I've already read) but I could easily see it being missed in audio. I had to re-read the last 2 chapters because I pushed myself to read them and finish it even though my eyes were drooping!

Your post mentioned something that I meant to add to the discussion -- the use by Hamid of the term 'native'. I think it is another instance of taking a term for which we have specific associations and opening it up, or making us think a bit differently, go to another level. (view spoiler).

Of course, another huge theme is the effect of immigration -- whether planned to improve life or escape insupportable conditions -- on relationships -- families, lovers, friends.


message 18: by Meli (new)

Meli (melihooker) | 3162 comments I thought the term native was used consistently in each location, but now I am not so sure.

This is why I don't like audio for fiction, I just don't retain as much :(
But it is really helpful to get more reading done each month.

Do you think (view spoiler)


message 19: by Jgrace (new)

Jgrace | 2762 comments I read this some time ago, so it's a bit hard to remember specifics. But, I didn't feel confident about the strength of that relationship from the beginning. I did like the way Hamid built contrasts in their behaviors and responses. Nadia appears to be very traditional in her black robes, but she's the more modern thinker. As they progress through the doors, Saeed keeps looking back and grieves for his losses. Nadia uses the experience to explore her own independence.


message 20: by Meli (new)

Meli (melihooker) | 3162 comments Jgrace wrote: "I read this some time ago, so it's a bit hard to remember specifics. But, I didn't feel confident about the strength of that relationship from the beginning. I did like the way Hamid built contrast..."

I think you are right... in retrospect it was an opposites attract type relationship where their differences seemed to become more fundamental.


message 21: by Joi (new)

Joi (missjoious) | 3782 comments Haven't read the conversation yet because of potential spoilers- but just started!


message 22: by Meli (new)

Meli (melihooker) | 3162 comments Joi wrote: "Haven't read the conversation yet because of potential spoilers- but just started!"

YAY! 💃🏼


message 23: by NancyJ (new)

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 5014 comments Someone in my local bookclub made an interesting connection between the doors in Exit West and the mystical trains in Underground Railroad that brought runaway slaves to unknown destinations.


message 24: by Theresa (new)

Theresa | 6339 comments NancyJ wrote: "Someone in my local bookclub made an interesting connection between the doors in Exit West and the mystical trains in Underground Railroad that brought runaway slaves to unknown destinations."

Interesting...and something to consider. Perhaps an inspiration.


message 25: by Booknblues (new)

Booknblues | 5523 comments NancyJ wrote: "Someone in my local bookclub made an interesting connection between the doors in Exit West and the mystical trains in Underground Railroad that brought runaway slaves to unknown destinations."

As I have said before about Exit West, I've read several books about middle eastern refugees and how they found their means to escape was very much like the doors represented in Exit West.

I expect that was much the way the Underground Railroad operated as well. However, I did see an interview with Colson Whitehead and that was not exactly how he was seeing it. He thought it would be interesting to use that as a plot device.


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