Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
Mohsin Hamid's latest book Exit West has been getting a lot of buzz lately. See:
- Magic and violence in migrants's tale
- A novel about refugees that feels instantly canonical
- A refugee crisis in a world of open doors
- Exit West and the edge of dystopia
- From refugees to politics, Mohsin Hamid writes the change he wants to see
The response has been overwhelmingly positive, with some attention paid to a weakening in the story as it gives way to optimism. I suppose, for many of us, this is a hard perspective to take when the outlook for refugees worldwide seems so bleak right now. Perhaps, though, it is for that very reason that we need Hamid's book.
Each chapter gives loads of information, wasting nary a word to explain the absolute violence of leaving home. In this novel, Hamid pivoted from full-on realism writing to magical realism with the introduction of these 'doors' into other cities, golden keys out of war-torn lands. The use of these doors moved the book along quickly, across time and place, and turned attention away from the ferocity of the 'getting there' to focus instead on the continued trepidation and mercilessness of resettling. It journeys through the many ways we come to interact with others, the potentiality we have to dehumanize that which does not reflect ourselves, or does so in too uncomfortable a way and, yet, it also reminds us of the resilience and compassion of mankind.
I forget less and less how fortunate I am to have been born where I was born.
Similar to Dalila, it also suggests that it is the universal experience of loss that binds us. It shows us how to lose gracefully, fiercely, willingly. It shows us how much their is to lose: our home, our families, ourselves. And, then, it shows us how to start again.
Finally, it is a story of love, a love that opens doors. Where is leads Nadia and Saeed, though, I will let you discover.