Exit West by Mohsin Hamid had some buzz, so I decided to get it from the library. It’s a very thoughtful book, not long, rather somber, and does leave an impression. Hamid’s writing is deliberate and precise with well-drawn characters. Nadia and Saheed meet in college classes. He’s more interested than she is, but he’s shy. When he finally gets her to go out and meet several times, he’s in love. Unfortunately their country is on the brink of war and upheaval. Life changes rapidly with a key death, a move, and then a life of transition for Nadia and Saheed. They are together, united as a couple, united as refugees, and trying to figure things out.
The book is set in the future and yet so much seems very current (a real shame). Doors open and close. Food is not available. People aren’t welcome. Sound familiar? Exit West isn’t about war per se. It’s a strong backdrop, and that affects Nadia and Saheed. The book is more about their relationship and how a couple reacts in crisis and whether they grow together or apart. I can’t say this book is for everyone, but I found it interesting and thought provoking.
p.138 …and when the tension receded there was calm, the calm that is called the calm before the storm, but is in reality the foundation of a human life, waiting there for us between the steps of our march to our mortality, when we are compelled to pause and not act but be.