- Title: Exit West
- Author: Mohsin Hamid
- Genre: Cultural Fiction
- Structure: Linear third-person narration
- First Line: “In a city swollen by refugees but still mostly at peace, or at least not yet openly at war, a young man met a young woman and did not speak to her.”
This has to be one of my favorite books of the moment. Can I just preface all this: I’m so glad this book exists. Buy it ASAP before it winds up on a banned books list. I’ll summarize for you in my usual five points. There’s more than these five points, but I think these are great starters.
- If I had to describe this book in one word, it would be “shocking”. It is shocking to me as a white woman, born and raised in the US, living a comfortable life. It is shocking, even though I keep up with the news. It is shocking the things I do not know and do not see. If you want a taste for what’s going on in the Middle East, this is it, unfiltered. I consider “shocking” to be a fantastic thing because if we rest in our comforts, others suffer, our integrity suffers, our humanity suffers. So, don’t suffer. Read this book.
- I fell in love with both of the main characters about two pages in, which is admittedly fast for me. They are the beautiful balance of yin and yang. I’m not sure if I’ve ever witnessed an author perfect and exemplify that balance quite like Hamid, but you have to experience it.
- At first, this point was going to go under “The Bad” for me because it seemed random. Throughout the book are sprinkled separate little stories. I’m telling you this so you get the full experience, but these little stories are not interlocking. I think they’re there to be juxtaposed with the two main characters and highlight the migrant life.
- Quick read! I read this little guy cover-to-cover in more or less than 5 hours. The print is a pretty decent size and the book moves fast. Not to mention, the story will keep you captivated easily for hours.
- I think this book, in 10 years (or sooner), will be one that a lot of people are reading and reflecting upon. Even though this is fiction and there are fictional aspects, what inspired this book is not. Hamid doesn’t go into where the main characters are from specifically and this is probably to lend to the notion of being a migrant: not truly being “from” anywhere, but constantly on the move. However, I think these characters could easily be from any country in the Middle East right now. And this book broke my heart over and over in the course of reading it, not because it was sad, but because it was true.
It took me about 20-30 pages to keep pace with his writing. It’s not that the writing is difficult, or necessarily “bad”, but it reads choppy to me. This is probably done intentionally to add to the drama and experience of the book, but I tend to prefer writing that has more of a flow. I think the same mission could have been accomplished with a more enhanced style of writing.
Also, I’ll make my usual note of graphics and what-not here. Again, not that graphic scenes or crudeness is “bad”, but some people may want to know. There is mild (as in maybe 3-4 words) of strong language and there are some vague graphic scenes.
THE SWEET SPOTS
In this section, I cover some of my deeper, personal thoughts. Books are meant to make you think. I always think the best books are the ones that help you discover pieces of yourself.
- Did this book remind you of anything that has happened to you?: It reminds me of my sophomore year of college. I took a course on the Holocaust. I learned about how it escalated, what specifically happened, who was targeted, how families and innocent children were torn apart and killed. I also read how most of the world did not know that the Holocaust was happening when it was. I was flabbergasted by that fact. Millions and millions of people were mercilessly killed. How could the world be that ignorant? After reading this book, I realized how the world can be that ignorant. We are in the middle of a Holocaust ourselves and it’s happening in the Middle East.
- Did this book give you any new ideas of yourself?: On a random note, as I was reading this book, all I could think about was my gratitude for Josh, my husband. The main character, Saeed, and his father, both reminded me a lot of Josh. I think it was their kindness and generosity. I am so very blessed and fortunate to have Josh by my side every day.
- What lesson did you learn?: The news is unreliable. The news, of course, usually, will report the bombings and killings in the Middle East, but it’s mentioned in passing, like an “Oh, by the way” sort. It takes the humanity out of it. Migration is going to happen (history proves it). We can be threatened by it or we can be educated by it. One is more painful than the other.
If you’re on the fence about immigration, read it. If you think people should just go back to where they came from, then this book should definitely be on your list. If you have no idea what’s happening in the Middle East, then this is a must. Honestly, if you’re a living, breathing person who can read, read it. The writing might be a challenge to get into at first, but the story is a beautiful one. Like I said, a super quick read! Grab it for a road trip or an airplane flight!
GET YOUR COPY HERE!
I received Exit West from the Book of the Month Club for March 2017. It was so great to receive personalized book recommendations at my doorstep! Honestly, I’m not sure if I would’ve picked up and experienced Exit West if it wasn’t for BOTM. You can join the club here for under $20 a month!
*Thank you Book of the Month Club for sponsoring this. All opinions are my own.