This is Part 2 in The Welcomer’s Bookshelf Series. You can read Part 1 here.
“In a city swollen with refugees but still mostly peaceful, or at least not yet openly at war, a young man met a young woman in a classroom.”
In the opening sentence of Exit West, author Mohsin Hamid sets the stage for the juxtaposition that will characterize the rest of the novel. Things are normal (boy meets girl, school is in session), and yet things are not normal (devastation looms).
Impetuous Nadia and quiet Saeed fall for each other against the backdrop of a society whose infrastructure is crumbling due to a bloody conflict that gets worse by the day. Eventually, the two take a risk: they believe rumors of mysterious doors which lead to faraway places, and they set off to find one.
Their journey takes them around the globe and deep inside themselves to wrestle with questions about who they really are and what they really want in a world where they can no longer go home.
The magical realism of Exit West makes it possible for the reader to feel the escapist thrill of leaving our world while every moment becoming more empathetic towards those experiencing hard reality of our world’s current refugee crisis.
Lack of specific cultural details and surprisingly spare prose achieve the affect of reminding us we could all be Saeed or Nadia. As we read their story and feel their emotions, we walk a mile in the shoes of refugees and see with their eyes.
Don’t be fooled by the sparse simplicity and YA label—if you’re like me, you’ll be thinking about the story and the complex realities it mirrors months after you put it down.
This book is a great, empathy-building choice both for those who are just beginning to learn more about refugees, as well as a way for those well-versed in statistics and information regarding refugees to return to the roots of their human stories.
Buy Exit West here!