In the beginning of this year, former United States President Barack Obama took to Facebook to share the books he enjoyed most reading the past year. Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West, which was was even shortlisted for The Man Booker Prize, was one of them. Shivangi Sharma Kalia reviews the book for us.
Migration has always intrigued me, to leave one’s own home, own country and start a fresh life in the unknown world somehow feels very daunting. And that’s what this book ‘Exit West’ is about or so I thought. Exit West written by Mohsin Hamid is the story of Nadia and Saeed, young professionals, who live in an unnamed country, a country which is in between political turmoil. As the situation in their country deteriorates Nadia and Saeed decide to flee from the country through the mystical ‘Doors’ that leads them to Greece, London and finally to the United States of America. Mohsin has a flair for writing stories that dwell into the familiar yet strange circumstances people of third world countries have to face.
Migration is mostly associated with melancholy, with pain and loss but the author does not indulge in the physical journey of the migrants but focuses more on their emotional journey and turmoil of the mind. For me this is a story about two people who are in love and have to leave their familiar surroundings for the unknown land. It is a story of their hopes, aspirations and survival. Throughout the narrative, the reader is never burdened to feel the actual suffering migration can inflict but focuses more on the changed person one can become when circumstances change. The reader uncovers the effects stress, fear and doubt can have on a relationship. Hamid accomplishes to traverse the reader through the change in everyday banal life when war knocks at the door in a very subdued yet fierce manner. He manages to weave a fairy tale around migration with the introduction of the mystical doors, at times it does feel that migration is easy. What started as a love story, slowly fades, as both Nadia and Saeed struggle for companionship and survival.
As Nadia and Saeed travel in search for a safe haven, they change, where Nadia adapts to the new life, Saeed on the other hand becomes more absorbed in his religion and looks out for people of his own. The author attempts the reader to think of a possibility of loss of the known and into the realms of the unknown, and envisage what would we want to hold in such times. Throughout the book there are hardly any tear-invoking moments but the book is filled with narrations where the reader needs to just pause and reflect. Hamid has done a commendable job with bringing forward the turmoil of the refugees in a powerful and sharp narrative, yet not sensationalizing it. However, I could not connect with the characters much, somehow their plight never felt my own, something about them felt impersonal. Overall, a very relevant novel for the current political scenario around the world but I think Hamid has left a lot of harrowing details of the migration process to be deciphered by the reader, or probably this was his intent.
Buy on Amazon: Exit West