I usually don’t pick up books because everyone else is talking about them. But Mohsin Hamid’s newest book, Exit West, caught my interest because it was one of the Book of the Month Club selections for this month, and (even though I ended up getting another BOTM book) I decided to pick this one up anyway. And I definitely did not regret it.
(From Goodreads) In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet—sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors—doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through.
Exit West follows these characters as they emerge into an alien and uncertain future, struggling to hold on to each other, to their past, to the very sense of who they are. Profoundly intimate and powerfully inventive, it tells an unforgettable story of love, loyalty, and courage that is both completely of our time and for all time.
Exit West is a phenomenal novel about what it means to be a refugee. It follows two refugees as they struggle to come to terms with their new, nomadic existence, having left everything they’ve ever known. I loved that this book wasn’t about war – in fact, we get very little information about the war itself – but instead about those affected by war, those who have no say in the war itself, but are ultimately affected the most. In that way, I thought this book is both extremely relevant and entirely timeless. I really enjoyed reading this story, because, while it was enjoyable on it’s own, it also gave me a greater sense of empathy towards refugees, which I value.
I also loved that, while Nadia and Saeed constantly deal with the challenges that come with living in a world ravaged by war, they also encounter personal struggles. Their relationship is not perfect, and like many people in the midst of tragedy, they try to ignore their own feelings for the sake of retaining the familiar. Both characters deal with loss in their own way, they grow together and apart, and see the future differently.
I enjoyed every part of this book, but one of my favorite things about it was the writing. Mohsin Hamid is clearly a talented and experienced writing. His prose is an excellent example of writing that is both simple and beautiful, which is incredibly difficult to accomplish. I truly loved reading it, and really admire Hamid’s talent.
Exit West was one of those books that is an entire experience. The imagery is vivid, the writing gorgeous, and the characters are dimensional. I had a lovely time reading it, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it ends up being one of my favorite books of the year.
This was my first Mohsin Hamid novel, and it won’t be my last. I loved it. And I think it’s going to be one of those books I come back to in a few years. If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend it! It’s brilliant and heartbreaking and hopeful. And so worth reading.
If you’ve read Exit West, share your thoughts in the comments below! What was your favorite part of this book?
You can (and should) order your copy of Exit West here.
I listened to the audiobook, and really enjoyed it. And, to get it free, use this link to sign up for a free trial of Audible and choose Exit West as one of your two free books (which you get to keep even if you cancel). It’s just under five hours, so it is a very quick listen, and definitely worthwhile.