Pakistani author Mohsin Hamid is the bestselling author of novels and essays, among them the revered novel, “The Reluctant Fundamentalist.” His latest book “Exit West” is a book you should read now. I have not been this emotionally moved by a book in years.
Exit West is essentially a love story. It opens in a city described as “swollen by refugees but still mostly at peace or at least not yet openly at war.” Nadia and Saeed escape the city and Saeed’s father. They travel first to Greece, then London, living in squalid camps, having only each other among the masses of displaced people, waiting for what the future shows. Finally, they are in San Francisco where housing is reserved for the moneyed class and the world moves forward in a rapid trajectory. Each place shows them new versions of themselves. As Hamid observes “the shades we reflect depend much on what is around us.”
After 50 years Nadia is back in the unnamed city and observes: “she was feeling she was a small plant in a small patch of soil, held between the rocks of a dry and windy place, and she was not wanted by the world, and here she was at least known...and that was a blessing.”
“Exit West” is an intoxicating epic of slender build. The writing is spare and sometimes reads like gospel. By the end of this brilliant book about assimilation and the permanence and impermanence of our lives, I was in tears and had to sit still for a bit to reflect. This timeless and timely love story is one we need; right now and forever.
Sarah's review first appeared on 89.1 KMUW.
— Sarah Bagby
March 2017 Indie Next List
“Exit West will take your breath away as it magically weaves together a story of falling in love while the world falls apart. Spirited Nadia captures the heart of the thoughtful Saeed, but as their different paths in life converge, ordinary life gives way to the insults of war. Mohsin Hamid conveys the story of these young refugees with tenderness, humanizing the horrors that we too often see as merely headlines. As chaos touches so many lives around the globe, Hamid writes eloquently of the beauty found in our struggle to survive. This is more than a timely story; this is a remarkable work of art.”
— Luisa Smith, Book Passage, Corte Madera, CA
Summer 2018 Reading Group Indie Next List
“This slender and compulsively readable novel will be one of the most powerful and heartbreaking reads you will encounter. It’s a story of migration and love of all kinds while also being a lesson on empathy for people robbed of their basic rights and needs. Hamid’s prose is quiet yet commanding, delivering passages and scenes unlikely to leave your subconscious. Exit West is gorgeous, timely, and desperately needed.”
— Tarah Jennings, Mitzi's Books, Rapid City, SD
FINALIST FOR THE BOOKER PRIZE
10 BEST BOOKS OF 2017, NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW WINNER OF THE L.A. TIMES BOOK PRIZE FOR FICTION and THE ASPEN WORDS LITERARY PRIZE “A breathtaking novel…[that] arrives at an urgent time.” —NPR “It was as if Hamid knew what was going to happen to America and the world, and gave us a road map to our future… At once terrifying and … oddly hopeful.” —Ayelet Waldman, The New York Times Book Review “Moving, audacious, and indelibly human.” —Entertainment Weekly, “A” rating A New York Times bestseller, the astonishingly visionary love story that imagines the forces that drive ordinary people from their homes into the uncertain embrace of new lands.
In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet—sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair, and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors—doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through. . . .
Exit West follows these remarkable characters as they emerge into an alien and uncertain future, struggling to hold on to each other, to their past, to the very sense of who they are. Profoundly intimate and powerfully inventive, it tells an unforgettable story of love, loyalty, and courage that is both completely of our time and for all time.
About the Author
Mohsin Hamid is the author of the international bestsellers Exit West and The Reluctant Fundamentalist, both finalists for the Man Booker Prize. His first novel, Moth Smoke, won the Betty Trask Award and was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Foundation Award. His essays, a number of them collected as Discontent and Its Civilizations, have appeared in The New York Times, the Washington Post, The New York Review of Books, and elsewhere. He lives in Lahore, Pakistan.
WINNER OF THE 2018 LOS ANGELES TIMES BOOK PRIZE FOR FICTION and THE ASPEN WORDS LITERARY PRIZE
10 BEST BOOKS OF 2017, NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW
FINALIST FOR THE 2017 MAN BOOKER PRIZE, THE NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARDS, and THE KIRKUS AWARD
“Hamid exploits fiction's capacity to elicit empathy and identification to imagine a better world. It is also a possible world. Exit West does not lead to utopia, but to a near future and the dim shapes of strangers that we can see through a distant doorway. All we have to do is step through it and meet them." --Viet Thanh Nguyen, The New York Times Book Review (cover)
“In spare, crystalline prose, Hamid conveys the experience of living in a city under siege with sharp, stabbing immediacy. He shows just how swiftly ordinary life — with all its banal rituals and routines — can morph into the defensive crouch of life in a war zone. … [and] how insidiously violence alters the calculus of daily life. … By mixing the real and the surreal, and using old fairy-tale magic, Hamid has created a fictional universe that captures the global perils percolating beneath today’s headlines.” ––Michiko Kakutani, New York Times
“Lyrical and urgent, the globalist novel evokes the dreams and disillusionments that follow Saeed and Nadia….and peels away the dross of bigotry to expose the beauty of our common humanity.”—O, the Oprah Magazine
“A beautiful and very detailed look at what it means to be an immigrant…An incredible book.” –Sarah Jessica Parker on Read it Forward
“A little like the eerily significant Margaret Atwood novel, this love story amid the rubble of violence, uncertainty, and modernity feels at once otherworldly and all too real.” —New York Magazine’s The Strategist
"This is the best writing of Hamid's career… Readers will find themselves going back and savoring each paragraph several times before moving on. He's that good. … Breathtaking.” —NPR.org
“Nearly every page reflects the tangible impact of life during wartime—not just the blood and gunsmoke of daily bombardments, but the quieter collateral damage that seeps in. The true magic of [Exit West] is how it manages to render it all in a narrative so moving, audacious, and indelibly human.” –Entertainment Weekly, “A rating”
“Hamid rewrites the world as a place thoroughly, gorgeously, and permanently overrun by refugees and migrants. … But, still, he depicts the world as resolutely beautiful and, at its core, unchanged. The novel feels immediately canonical, so firm and unerring is Hamid’s understanding of our time and its most pressing questions.” —NewYorker.com
"No novel is really about the cliche called 'the human condition,' but good novels expose and interpret the particular condition of the humans in their charge, and this is what Hamid has achieved here. If in its physical and perilous immediacy Nadia and Saeed’s condition is alien to the mass of us, Exit West makes a final, certain declaration of affinity: 'We are all migrants through time.'” —Washington Post
“Skillful and panoramic from the outset... [A] meticulously crafted, ambitious story of many layers, many geopolitical realities, many lives and circumstances...Here is the world, he seems to be saying, the direction we’re hurtling in. How are we going to mitigate the damage we’ve done?” –The New York Review of Books
“Like the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, but set in the real world. You’ll be hearing about it, so get into it now.” —TheSkimm
“Hamid graphically explores a fundamental and important ontological question: Is it possible for us to conceive of ourselves at all, except in juxtaposition to an “other”?... What is remarkable about Hamid’s narrative is that war is not, in fact, able to marginalize the “precious mundanity” of everyday life. Instead — and herein lies Hamid’s genius as a storyteller — the mundanity, the minor joys of life, like bringing flowers to a lover, smoking a joint, and looking at stars, compete with the horrors of war.” –Los Angeles Times
“In an era when powerful ruling groups — often in the minority — are gripped by a sense of religious and ethnic nativism, Mohsin offers these two, the millions they represent, and us, comfort: that plausible, desirable futures can be imagined, that new tribes may be formed, and that life will go on... If we are looking for the story of our time, one that can project a future that is both more bleak and more hopeful than that which we can yet envision, this novel is faultless.” –Boston Globe
“[A] slender treasure of a novel.” –NPR's Book Concierge
"Terrifying, hopeful, and all too relevant."—People Magazine
“It was as if Hamid knew what was going to happen to America and the world, and gave us a road map to our future… This book blew the top off my head. It’s at once terrifying and, in the end, oddly hopeful.” –Ayelet Waldman, New York Times Book Review
"If there is one book everyone should read ASAP, it is Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West...Short, unsentimental, deeply intimate, and so very powerful." —Goop
“Spare and haunting, it’s magical realism meets the all-too-real.” –W Magazine
“Taut but haunting.” –Vanity Fair
"Powerfully evokes the violence and anxiety of lives lived ‘under the drone-crossed sky.’” —Time Magazine
“Hamid’s timely and spare new novel confronts the inevitability of mass global immigration, the unbroken cycle of violence and the indomitable human will to connect and love.” —Huffington Post
“A great romance that is also a story of refugees; this couldn’t be more timely.” —Flavorwire
“Exit West is a compelling read that will make you think about the times we are living in right now.” –PopSugar
"Beautiful." –The Rumpus
“Eerily prescient.” –Joyce Carol Oates, The New Yorker.com “[A] thought experiment that pivots on the crucial figure of this century: the migrant… Hamid’s cautious, even fastidious prose makes the sudden flashes of social breakdown all the more affecting...Evading the lure of both the utopian and the dystopian, Exit West makes some rough early sketches of the world that must come if we (or is it ‘you’?) are to avoid walling out the rest of the human race.” –Financial Times
“Exit West operates on another plane… Beautiful and poetic even at its most devastating.” –Book Riot
“Raw, poetic, and frighteningly prescient.” —BBC.com
“Timely and resonant.” —Publisher's Weekly, Top 10 Most-Anticipated Literary Fiction of 2017