Exit West by Mohsin Hamid: A Review

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Saeed and Nadia are lucky to be well-educated and from caring families that live in homes protected by the government.  This affords some amount of protection from the religious fundamentalists that threaten their city and homeland.  Unfortunately, the protection is not enough and the new lovers must find a way out of the country.  They must leave behind their families and communities and navigate the world of refugees while also kindling their relationship.

I heard about this book because it was one of the March Book of the Month Club selections.  While I loved the characters for the very beginning, the story moved too slowly for me for almost half of the book.  Then, it started to grow on me.  This book had a lot of different things going on.  There was the romance between Nadia and Saeed.  Saeed is a quiet, studious young man who lives with his parents but Nadia is a headstrong young woman who left her family's home despite their objections.  While they had very different personalities, I felt myself hoping that their relationship would work.  Refugees and migrants have been front and center in international news recently and the travels of Saeed and Nadia made one think about this very relevant and contemporary topic.  Through the couple's emigration, we also touch on how people change based upon the environment that they are in and how these changes in personality may have an effect on their relationships.  There is even a bit of fantasy which I usually stay away from but worked well in this book.

The characters in this book are really very interesting.  I love how they changed over time and their environments.  It was also refreshing to read an author show characters that can understand both sides of arguments like immigration and the treatment of refugees versus the rights of the native population.  I almost abandoned this book in the beginning because of the slow start but towards the middle, I really started enjoying it.  The story became more interesting and appealing.  Hamid is a wonderful writer and there were so many quotes and ideas that I believe would be relevant to a wide audience.  I enjoyed this book and I think that this book would be great for readers that enjoy novels that are rich in culture or that showcase the refugee experience.  I encourage anyone who is struggling with it at the beginning to stick with it as there are great rewards at the end.

Subscribe to Book of the Month Club to receive one of five titles each month.

Reviews of books like this one:
All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg
Everything Belongs to Us by Yoojin Grace Wuertz
The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen

This book is currently available and can be purchased from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  Read more reviews on this book on Goodreads.

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