“Exit West” by Mohsin Hamid

5 stars

Hamid writes softly, poetically about the harshness of forced migration resulting from the realities of ethnic wars and terrorism in our time. By virtue of his stylistic choices, including “magical realism” (refugees desperate to leave their embattled homeland enter and exit through black doors without any knowledge of what awaits them on the other side: for the main characters, these doors lead first to a Greek island, later to London and finally to Marin, California) and his focus on the intimate relationship between two main characters, Saeed and Nadia (young, urban, education, smart-phoned professionals) as well as his intermittent placement of a brief light on various unnamed migrant characters scattered in different parts of the world, the author elicits the reader’s empathy and identity with refugees. Hamid captures the reader’s communion and compassion for the characters in his arresting line: “When we migrate we murder from our lives those we leave behind.” Further, when describing dependence on prayer as a response to his displacement, Hamid expresses that he prays “as a gesture of love for what had gone and would go and could be loved in no other way.” Finally, Hamid contrasts the wanderings of the main characters with an elderly woman in California who “lived in the same house her entire life.” Even so, her home becomes unrecognizable to her, leading her to conclude that migration is unavoidable: “Everyone migrates, even if we stay in the same house our whole lives.” “We are all migrants through time.”

–Lynn H.

Call No.: FIC Hamid

Posted in Summer Reading 2017 Adult.