“Exit West” Book Review

Kassie Lemancik, Staff Writer

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“Exit West” by Mohsin Hamid is a young adult novel following Saeed and Nadia and their riveting story of travel to and through London while observing their relationship fall together.

The first chapters include detailed descriptions of each character and their background. Saeed lives with his parents while Nadia lives in an apartment alone. Her rebellious attitude and opposing religious beliefs caused disagreement with her family eventually resulting in her moving out.

Hamid uses almost delicate way of writing as though he chose each word to place precisely. He uses lengthy sentences that describe the situation in an uncommon way that few authors use, making the reading experience more enjoyable.

After Saeed’s mother is shot by a stray bullet, his family is insistent that Nadia moves in with them for a safer living situation creating a stronger point of conflict in the book. Nadia is independently fierce, determined to find a way out of their city as it is becoming dangerous due to the current war.

Due to the war, Saeed and Nadia are forced to evacuate from where they were staying with Saeed’s family. Hamid expressed through his brilliant style of writing the pain that came with leaving behind a cared for family member through Saeed’s character while beautifully illustrating the difficulty and reality of how swiftly one’s ordinary life can change into a fearful and defensive lifestyle.

When the time came for Saeed and Nadia to flee their current home, Saeed’s father believed that he “had come to that point in a parent’s life when, if a flood arrives, one knows one must let go of one’s child, contrary to all the instincts one had when one was younger, because holding on can no longer offer the child protection, it can only pull the child down, and threaten them with drowning, for the child is now stronger than the parent, and the circumstances are such that the utmost strength is required,” Hamid writes.

He incorporates a mystery aspect through doors: there is a superstition in the story that walking through certain doors will transport you to different places around the world. This concept offers conveniences throughout the book as well as contribute to the conflict at times, but the plot point remains consistent.

The first door that Nadia and Saeed decide to travel through takes them to the Greek island of Mykonos. They set up camp for a while but then continue to travel through doors to different countries and continents.

“All their doors remained simple doors,” Hamid writes. “on/off switches in the flow of two adjacent places, binarily either open or closed, but each of their doors, regarded thus with a twinge of irrational possibility, became partially animate as well, an object with subtle power to mock, to mock the desires of those who desired to go far away, whispering silently from its door frame that such dreams were the dreams of fools.”

Saeed begins their travel as a shy and closed off person, but as his position in helping his and Nadia’s survival becomes more demanding, he feels the toll of moving away from his family, connecting with them solely through prayer. Regret, fear and sadness overcome him, his relationship with Nadia feeling the affects of his pain.

Nadia’s personality remains more resilient and adaptive than Saeed’s, but their complicated relationship dynamic affects her as it is affecting Saeed. The more complicated their situation becomes, the more the two of them drift. With the tolls taken on each of them as individuals, their relationships suffer the circumstances.

Through the story, Hamid decides to include concise yet insightful glimpses into the lives of other people in order to serve as an example of the differences and similarities between the lives of others and the lives that Saeed and Nadia lead.

In many ways, the dystopian world that “Exit West” takes place in is similar to certain countries around the world today. People who live in a war zone can relate to the story and the pain that the characters experience. Not only does this book serve that purpose, but it also does a wonderful job of opening the perspectives of others who don’t experience a defensive, fearful life.