Mohsin Hamid is a terrific storyteller. I read The Reluctant Fundamentalist several years ago and remember being captivated by it. As I listened to Exit West on audiobook, I was just as taken in!
Saeed and Nadiya are the main characters in this story. They are living in a country that has been taken over by fundamentalists. There are rules about how to wear your hair, your beard, who you can walk with, and everything is very strict. They meet by chance and quickly develop a relationship with each other. As their country is torn apart, they become closer and come to rely on each other more and more.
There are rumors around their city that there are doors you can walk through and they will take you away. Finally, Saeed and Nadiya are connected with a person that can help them enter one of these magical doors, which whisks them away to a beach side paradise free of the terror of their own city. As they explore and find their new places in this new world, they continue to mourn and fear for their old lives.
This novel was brutal when describing life in a war-torn city. Not gory at all, but straightforward and short-worded. It simply described the facts, which made it even more difficult given that it was clear that the author was not trying to glamorize these atrocities against human life in anyway. It was simply how things are when your country is experiencing the brutalities of war.
This was an excellent book. It was published earlier this year, so it’s a good option if you’re wanting to beef up on new publications. He describes things so well with so few words, it’s incredible. Even though there were some awkward scenes, everything was spoken about without mincing words. What an honest book, despite the magical realism that he used to cart his characters away from tragic situations into more peaceful ones!