Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

Above them bright satellites transited in the darkening sky and the last hawks were returning to the rest of their nests and around them passersby did not pause to look at this old woman in her black robe or this old man with his stubble.

I was interested in the sci-fi element of this novel -- the magical doors -- and the political implications of it -- migration, borders, identity -- but what hooked me by the heart and left me in tears by the end was the beautiful, complicated, painful, oh-so-realistic relationship of Nadia and Saeed.

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
Penguin Random House Audio, 2017
Copy via the library

Hamid reads his own book in audio, and it was a delightful listen. The philosophical musings felt more organic and natural -- like being in Nadia's mind or Saeed's thoughts -- than when I read them, and the inevitability of Nadia and Saeed -- growing together, growing apart -- felt so much more poignant with someone telling me about them.

Nadia and Saeed meet in university, while war tears at their country. By the time their own city is a war zone, they've become a couple, despite their differences. Nadia is bold and adventurous, hungry for life, dressing in conservative black robes for safety. Saeed is romantic and spiritual, religious in a nostalgic way, eager for a home and a nest. Danger and threat throw them together, pull them apart, throw them together again. Hamid manages to keep this plot interesting rather than tiresome because of how interesting and real Saeed and Nadia are, and by juxtaposing their struggles with that of the wider world.

By the end of this book, I genuinely couldn't decide if I wanted them to figure things out or grow as people and move on to find love that would suit them. Hamid gave me an ending that brought tears to my eyes.

1 comment :

  1. My mother read this recently and talked about it a lot. She liked it too.