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Exit West, Mohsin Hamid, Riverhead Books, 2017, 138 pp
This novel was so great, I hardly know what to say besides, just read it!
It is very much about what is going on all over the world today when people decide they must leave their homeland, meaning they must leave behind everyone and everything they know and venture into uncertainty.
Hamid Mohsin does this brilliantly without even naming the country being left. Instead he created two characters, human and real but not western, who fall in love as their city is being destroyed by internal war. As their lives get more and more restricted by the breakdown of services and the dangers in the streets, he simultaneously creates the gradual but relentless deterioration of life around them along with their growing intimacy.
Then there are the mysterious doors through which people can go like portals in a fantasy novel and find themselves in another land. These doors reminded me of the trains in Colson Whitehead's The Underground Railroad. We talked a lot about those doors in my reading group.
As Nadia and Saeed go from Greece to London to California, they confront and deal with living out of a few bundles in camps where they are unwanted and mistrusted by the population around them. As they each discover ways of coping, their relationship evolves in ways both they and the reader could not have foreseen.
Exit West is short and I did not want it to end, but even the way it ends is wondrous.
(Exit West is available in various formats by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)