Exit West: A Novel by Mohsin HamidExit West: A Novel by Mohsin Hamidsticker-burst

Exit West: A Novel

byMohsin Hamid

Hardcover | March 7, 2017

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SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2017 MAN BOOKER PRIZE

FINALIST FOR THE 2017 KIRKUS PRIZE

“A breathtaking novel…[that] arrives at an urgent time.” –NPR.org

“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 finalist for the Man Booker Prize and 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.
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, ha...
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Title:Exit West: A NovelFormat:HardcoverDimensions:240 pages, 8.56 × 5.88 × 0.86 inPublished:March 7, 2017Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0735212171

ISBN - 13:9780735212176

Reviews

Rated 4 out of 5 by from A fast read, Worth it, just don't expect too much. War, conflict, migration, refugees, love and a little bit of magical realism. The writing is simple and gentle and poetic, and surprisingly positive despite the dark topic.
Date published: 2017-10-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Impressive Entertaining to read the entire time
Date published: 2017-10-26
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Did not live up to all they hype. It will make you think and look at things in a new perspective. At once both sharply current and dreamily magical, this book issocial commentary, fantasy, and a love story. It was good but did not live up to all the hype in my opinion. #plumreviews.
Date published: 2017-10-22
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Didn't see the appeal Interesting look into the lives of refugees, but the way the story is told didn't appeal to me. Couldn't make a connection with the characters at all.
Date published: 2017-09-18
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Couldn't connect I picked up this book mostly for it's pretty cover. I know, superficial. I was also intrigued by the synopsis. However, it wasn't what I expected it to be. More importantly - I couldn't connect with the book due to the writing style. I enjoy details in my reads. I just wanted to get over with the book as soon as I could, as opposed to enjoying it. #plumreview
Date published: 2017-08-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Read for book club I read this for book club and enjoyed it. Well written fictional commentary on the refugee crisis.
Date published: 2017-08-12
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Three Stars Like the relationship of the two main characters, this book just tapers off at the end.
Date published: 2017-08-09
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Overrated This book was well reviewed by several magazines & is on the long list for the Man Booker Prize, thus I anticipated a good read. Frankly, I think it is overrated. Is it because its theme of migration/refugees is so topical? I loaned it to a friend & unfortunately she rated it even lower.
Date published: 2017-07-30
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Dissapointing 2.5 stars. The topic is important and I liked the premise, but despite some beautifully written moments, the whole story was disappointing.
Date published: 2017-07-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from good short book, quick read but makes you think about the world and refugee crisis.
Date published: 2017-07-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Liked it I held off a long time on buying this book until I found a used copy at a thrift store. I like the third person narrative and straight story telling interspersed with episodes of rising violence and contemplations on lost lives. This is a novel well worth reading
Date published: 2017-06-18
Rated 1 out of 5 by from blown away awe inspiring real in depth loved the writing.
Date published: 2017-05-10
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not blown away I had really high hopes for Exit West because of the advanced praised this novel received. The story is a relevant one and should be read as it reveals and shares insight on the current state of refugees in the world. The two main characters, Nadia and Saeed, navigate a turbulent and unpredictable migrant experience as they pursue a relationship with one another. However, there is something about Hamid's writing style that prevented me from truly connecting to this novel.
Date published: 2017-05-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Fascinating and lovely This book is so many things. On the surface, It's a story about a refugee crisis (and the ever present anti-migrant movements) in a world where doors open between countries allowing people to go to another country quickly and relatively easily. It's also a beautiful and honest story about a relationship between two young people who make the difficult decision to leave their home in search of safer places. Hamid's writing was quiet, lovely and thoughtful. His main story was interspersed with with little snippets of other people's experiences, which helped to set the tone of the book as well as the consequences of the doors.
Date published: 2017-04-28
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Disappointing I was expecting great things from this book, having read Hamid's earlier work The Reluctant Fundamentalist, but I was very disappointed. This book did not generate the same passion in me. It did not grip me and keep me guessing like the earlier book. I'm glad I borrowed this from the library--it is not worth the purchase price.
Date published: 2017-04-27
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Mixed Feelings I have such mixed feelings when it comes to this book! I liked it and I read it super quickly, but I was thrown off my the author's style of writing. There were so many run-on sentences that I often lost myself halfway through and ended up having to reread that particular section. I like the story a lot, but I think the writing is what threw me off.
Date published: 2017-04-15
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Exit West A nice read from start to finish, but I can't say it's a book I'd reread. #plumreview
Date published: 2017-04-13
Rated 3 out of 5 by from it's not THAT great While the story made me think and there were a few beautifully written lines that made me pause to take them in, overall it was just ok. I found the female character annoying and their relationship was unbelievable. Maybe the point was that in such stressful situations, we lose some of that human element and just survive. The author loves run on sentences the length of whole paragraphs, which I didn't appreciate.
Date published: 2017-03-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I love it! This is one of the rare books that, while probably easily read in a few sittings, I practiced delayed gratification with. I wanted to spread it out, and even as I raced to the end in those last twenty pages or so because I was running out of time in my lunch hour, I didn't want it to end. This was my first Hamid and his language is just so magical while still being incredibly simple. I was able to find satisfaction in the heartbreaking events that would continue to happen, and delight in the little stories of others that popped up here and there.
Date published: 2017-03-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Enjoyed reading this very much It was a really good book, I couldn't put it down. I finished it within a weekend
Date published: 2017-03-26
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Enjoyed it Read this book to see different and new perspectives, ideas, and become engaged in the story.
Date published: 2017-03-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Read This Book Read this book only if you are into books that are very smart yet totally engaging, give you multiple 'I never thought about it that way before' moments, include a love story that exists in an unimaginable space yet is heartbreakingly relatable, and are totally of the moment and yet completely timeless.
Date published: 2017-03-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Timely Story Exit West by Moshin Hamid couldn't have come a better time. This is the sort of book that we need right now, and I am so glad that I took time for this short read. It's a book about civil war and migration, and how life can suddenly change during times of turmoil. The heart of this book, however, is a love story. It's the story of two people falling in love, and then falling out of it. "Saeed was certain he was in love. Nadia was not certain what she was feeling, but she was certain it had force." Nadia and Saeed meet, and before too long the relationship blossoms. They make a quick connection, and are soon spending their evenings together. Hamid is quick to let the reader know that this is not your average couple - Saeed is set on keeping the relationship chaste, while Nadia is not. She also smokes marijuana, takes psychedelic mushrooms, and rides a motorcycle. When asked why she wears the "all-concealing black robes", she simply replies "so men don't fuck with me". Hamid's brilliance comes in the anonymity of the country that Nadia and Saeed flee from. A civil war is breaking out, and the reader must experience the violence and death from a completely unbiased perspective. This is a story about people who are in danger and the sacrifices they make to stay safe - it's as simple as that. Not naming a specific country allows the humanity of the story to take the lead. Imagine a life in which a window becomes an instrument of death - Hamid reminds us of the reasons people emigrate. "One's relationship with a window now changed in the city. A window was the border through which death was possibly most likely to come. Windows could not stop even the most flagging round of ammunition: any spot indoors with a view of the outside was a spot potentially in the crossfire...the pane of a window could itself become shrapnel so easily." I was not expecting a story rooted in magical realism, but that's much of what this is. Nadia and Saeed move through doors that transport them to new places as they seek refuge after fleeing their homeland. Through their journey they grow closer, and then apart. Hamid describes them as a couple that is uncoupling, a sentiment many will relate to. Hamid's prose is fluid and unique - I've never read anything like this before. Allow yourself to be swept away by this magical book, it's a timely and rewarding read.
Date published: 2017-03-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from What a story! An excellent addition to any library.
Date published: 2017-03-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very good and interesting book. Yes, I recommend this book.
Date published: 2017-03-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Liked it Nadia and Saeed, fall in love and become refugees as their country decays into civil war. A great love story and investigation into what it could be like for any of us.
Date published: 2017-03-10
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good Read Good read, enjoyable story.
Date published: 2017-03-09

Read from the Book

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 in a classroom and did not speak to her. For many days. His name was Saeed and her name was Nadia and he had a beard, not a full beard, more a studiously maintained stubble, and she was always clad from the tips of her toes to the bottom of her jugular notch in a f lowing black robe. Back then people continued to enjoy the luxury of wearing more or less what they wanted to wear, clothing and hair wise, within certain bounds of course, and so these choices meant something. It might seem odd that in cities teetering at the edge of the abyss young people still go to class—in this case an evening class on corporate identity and product branding—but that is the way of things, with cities as with life, for one moment we are pottering about our errands as usual and the next we are dying, and our eternally impending ending does not put a stop to our transient beginnings and middles until the instant when it does. Saeed noticed that Nadia had a beauty mark on her neck, a tawny oval that sometimes, rarely but not never, moved with her pulse.   Not long after noticing this, Saeed spoke to Nadia for the first time. Their city had yet to experience any major fighting, just some shootings and the odd car bombing, felt in one’s chest cavity as a subsonic vibration like those emitted by large loudspeakers at music concerts, and Saeed and Nadia had packed up their books and were leaving class. In the stairwell he turned to her and said, “Listen, would you like to have a coffee,” and after a brief pause added, to make it seem less forward, given her conservative attire, “in the cafeteria?” Nadia looked him in the eye. “You don’t say your evening prayers?” she asked. Saeed conjured up his most endearing grin. “Not always. Sadly.” Her expression did not change. So he persevered, clinging to his grin with the mounting desperation of a doomed rock climber: “I think it’s personal. Each of us has his own way. Or . . . her own way. Nobody’s perfect. And, in any case—” She interrupted him. “I don’t pray,” she said. She continued to gaze at him steadily. Then she said, “Maybe another time.” He watched as she walked out to the student parking area and there, instead of covering her head with a black cloth, as he expected, she donned a black motorcycle helmet that had been locked to a scuffed-up hundred-ish cc trail bike, snapped down her visor, straddled her ride, and rode off, disappearing with a controlled rumble into the gathering dusk.  The next day, at work, Saeed found himself unable to stop thinking of Nadia. Saeed’s employer was an agency that specialized in the placement of outdoor advertising. They owned billboards all around the city, rented others, and struck deals for further space with the likes of bus lines, sports stadiums, and proprietors of tall buildings. The agency occupied both floors of a converted townhouse and had over a dozen employees. Saeed was among the most junior, but his boss liked him and had tasked him with turning around a pitch to a local soap company that had to go out by email before five. Normally Saeed tried to do copious amounts of online research and customize his presentations as much as possible. “It’s not a story if it doesn’t have an audience,” his boss was fond of saying, and for Saeed this meant trying to show a client that his firm truly understood their business, could really get under their skin and see things from their point of view. But today, even though the pitch was important—every pitch was important: the economy was sluggish from mounting unrest and one of the first costs clients seemed to want to cut was outdoor advertising—Saeed couldn’t focus. A large tree, overgrown and untrimmed, reared up from the tiny back lawn of his firm’s townhouse, blocking out the sunlight in such a manner that the back lawn had been reduced mostly to dirt and a few wisps of grass, interspersed with a morning’s worth of cigarette butts, for his boss had banned people from smoking indoors, and atop this tree Saeed had spotted a hawk constructing its nest. It worked tirelessly. Sometimes it floated at eye level, almost stationary in the wind, and then, with the tiniest movement of a wing, or even of the upturned feathers at one wingtip, it veered. Saeed thought of Nadia and watched the hawk. When he was at last running out of time he scrambled to prepare the pitch, copying and pasting from others he had done before. Only a smattering of the images he selected had anything particularly to do with soap. He took a draft to his boss and suppressed a wince while sliding it over. But his boss seemed preoccupied and didn’t notice. He just jotted some minor edits on the printout, handed it back to Saeed with a wistful smile, and said, “Send it out.” Something about his expression made Saeed feel sorry for him. He wished he had done a better job.   As Saeed’s email was being downloaded from a server and read by his client, far away in Australia a pale-skinned woman was sleeping alone in the Sydney neighborhood of Surry Hills. Her husband was in Perth on business. The woman wore only a long T-shirt, one of his, and a wedding ring. Her torso and left leg were covered by a sheet even paler than she was; her right leg and right hip were bare. On her right ankle, perched in the dip of her Achilles tendon, was the blue tattoo of a small mythological bird. Her home was alarmed, but the alarm was not active. It had been installed by previous occupants, by others who had once called this place home, before the phenomenon referred to as the gentrification of this neighborhood had run as far as it had now run. The sleeping woman used the alarm only sporadically, mostly when her husband was absent, but on this night she had forgotten. Her bedroom window, four meters above the ground, was open, just a slit. In the drawer of her bedside table were a half-full packet of birth control pills, last consumed three months ago, when she and her husband were still trying not to conceive, passports, checkbooks, receipts, coins, keys, a pair of handcuffs, and a few paper-wrapped sticks of unchewed chewing gum. The door to her closet was open. Her room was bathed in the glow of her computer charger and wireless router, but the closet doorway was dark, darker than night, a rectangle of complete darkness—the heart of darkness. And out of this darkness, a man was emerging. He too was dark, with dark skin and dark, woolly hair. He wriggled with great effort, his hands gripping either side of the doorway as though pulling himself up against gravity, or against the rush of a monstrous tide. His neck followed his head, tendons straining, and then his chest, his half-unbuttoned, sweaty, gray-and-brown shirt. Suddenly he paused in his exertions. He looked around the room. He looked at the sleeping woman, the shut bedroom door, the open window. He rallied himself again, fighting mightily to come in, but in desperate silence, the silence of a man struggling in an alley, on the ground, late at night, to free himself of hands clenched around his throat. But there were no hands around this man’s throat. He wished only not to be heard.With a final push he was through, trembling and sliding to the floor like a newborn foal. He lay still, spent. Tried not to pant. He rose. His eyes rolled terribly. Yes: terribly. Or perhaps not so terribly. Perhaps they merely glanced about him, at the woman, at the bed, at the room. Growing up in the not infrequently perilous circumstances in which he had grown up, he was aware of the fragility of his body. He knew how little it took to make a man into meat: the wrong blow, the wrong gunshot, the wrong flick of a blade, turn of a car, presence of a microorganism in a handshake, a cough. He was aware that alone a person is almost nothing. The woman who slept, slept alone. He who stood above her, stood alone. The bedroom door was shut. The window was open. He chose the window. He was through it in an instant, dropping silkily to the street below.   While this incident was occurring in Australia, Saeed was picking up fresh bread for dinner and heading home. He was an independent-minded, grown man, unmarried, with a decent post and a good education, and as was the case in those days in his city with most independent-minded, grown men, unmarried, with decent posts and good educations, he lived with his parents. Saeed’s mother had the commanding air of a schoolteacher, which she formerly was, and his father the slightly lost bearing of a university professor, which he continued to be—though on reduced wages, for he was past the official retirement age and had been forced to seek out visiting faculty work. Both of Saeed’s parents, the better part of a lifetime ago, had chosen respectable professions in a country that would wind up doing rather badly by its respectable professionals. Security and status were to be found only in other, quite different pursuits. Saeed had been born to them late, so late that his mother had believed her doctor was being cheeky when he asked if she thought she was pregnant. Their small flat was in a once handsome building, with an ornate though now crumbling facade that dated back to the colonial era, in a once upscale, presently crowded and commercial, part of town. It had been partitioned from a much larger flat and comprised three rooms: two modest bedrooms and a third chamber they used for sitting, dining, entertaining, and watching television. This third chamber was also modest in size but had tall windows and a usable, if narrow, balcony, with a view down an alley and straight up a boulevard to a dry fountain that once gushed and sparkled in the sunlight. It was the sort of view that might command a slight premium during gentler, more prosperous times, but would be most undesirable in times of conflict, when it would be squarely in the path of heavy machine-gun and rocket fire as fighters advanced into this part of town: a view like staring down the barrel of a rifle. Location, location, location, the realtors say. Geography is destiny, respond the historians. War would soon erode the facade of their building as though it had accelerated time itself, a day’s toll outpacing that of a decade.   When Saeed’s parents first met they were the same age as were Saeed and Nadia when they first did. The elder pair’s was a love marriage, a marriage between strangers not arranged by their families, which, in their circles, while not unprecedented, was still less than common. They met at the cinema, during the intermission of a film about a resourceful princess. Saeed’s mother spied his father having a cigarette and was struck by his similarity to the male lead in the movie. This similarity was not entirely accidental: though a little shy and very bookish, Saeed’s father styled himself after the popular film stars and musicians of his day, as did most of his friends. But Saeed’s father’s myopia combined with his personality to give him an expression that was genuinely dreamy, and this, understandably, resulted in Saeed’s mother thinking he not merely looked the part, but embodied it. She decided to make her approach. Standing in front of Saeed’s father she proceeded to talk animatedly with a friend while ignoring the object of her desire. He noticed her. He listened to her. He summoned the nerve to speak to her. And that, as they were both fond of saying when recounting the story of their meeting in subsequent years, was that. Saeed’s mother and father were both readers, and, in different ways, debaters, and they were frequently to be seen in the early days of their romance meeting surreptitiously in bookshops. Later, after their marriage, they would while away afternoons reading together in cafés and restaurants, or, when the weather was suitable, on their balcony. He smoked and she said she didn’t, but often, when the ash of his seemingly forgotten cigarette grew impossibly extended, she took it from his fingers, trimmed it softly against an ashtray, and pulled a long and rather rakish drag before returning it, daintily. The cinema where Saeed’s parents met was long gone by the time their son met Nadia, as were the bookshops they favored and most of their beloved restaurants and cafés. It was not that cinemas and bookshops, restaurants and cafés had vanished from the city, just that many of those that had been there before were there no longer. The cinema they remembered so fondly had been replaced by a shopping arcade for computers and electronic peripherals. This building had taken the same name as the cinema that preceded it: both once had the same owner, and the cinema had been so famous as to have become a byword for that locality. When walking by the arcade, and seeing that old name on its new neon sign, sometimes Saeed’s father, sometimes Saeed’s mother, would remember, and smile. Or remember, and pause.   Saeed’s parents did not have sex until their wedding night. Of the two, Saeed’s mother found it more uncomfortable, but she was also the more keen, and so she insisted on repeating the act twice more before dawn. For many years, their balance remained thus. Generally speaking, she was voracious in bed. Generally speaking, he was obliging. Perhaps because she did not, until Saeed’s conception two decades later, get pregnant, and assumed therefore she could not, she was able to have sex with abandon, without, that is, thought of consequences or the distractions of child-rearing. Meanwhile his typical manner, throughout the first half of their marriage, at her strenuous advances, was that of a man pleasantly surprised. She found mustaches and being taken from behind erotic. He found her carnal and motivating. After Saeed was born, the frequency with which his parents had sex dipped notably, and it continued to decline going forward. A uterus began to prolapse, an erection became harder to maintain. During this phase, Saeed’s father started to be cast, or to cast himself, more and more often, as the one who tried to initiate sex. Saeed’s mother would sometimes wonder whether he did this out of genuine desire or habit or simply for closeness. She tried her best to respond. He would eventually come to be rebuffed by his own body at least as much as by hers. In the last year of the life they shared together, the year that was already well under way when Saeed met Nadia, they had sex only thrice. As many times in a year as on their wedding night. But his father always kept a mustache, at his mother’s insistence. And they never once changed their bed: its headboard like the posts of a banister, almost demanding to be gripped. In what Saeed’s family called their living room there was a telescope, black and sleek. It had been given to Saeed’s father by his father, and Saeed’s father had given it in turn to Saeed, but since Saeed still lived at home, this meant the telescope continued to sit where it always sat, on its tripod in a corner, underneath an intricate clipper ship that sailed inside a glass bottle on the sea of a triangular shelf. The sky above their city had become too polluted for much in the way of stargazing. But on cloudless nights after a daytime rain, Saeed’s father would sometimes bring out the telescope, and the family would sip green tea on their balcony, enjoying a breeze, and take turns to look up at objects whose light, often, had been emitted before any of these three viewers had been born—light from other centuries, only now reaching Earth. Saeed’s father called this time-travel. On one particular night, though, in fact the night after he had struggled to prepare his firm’s pitch to the soap company, Saeed was absentmindedly scanning along a trajectory that ran below the horizon. In his eyepiece were windows and walls and rooftops, sometimes stationary, sometimes whizzing by at incredible speed. “I think he’s looking at young ladies,” Saeed’s father said to his mother. “Behave yourself, Saeed,” said his mother. “Well, he is your son.” “I never needed a telescope.”  “Yes, you preferred to operate short-range.”Saeed shook his head and tacked upward. “I see Mars,” he said. And indeed he did. The second-nearest planet, its features indistinct, the color of a sunset after a dust storm. Saeed straightened and held up his phone, directing its camera at the heavens, consulting an application that indicated the names of celestial bodies he did not know. The Mars it showed was more detailed as well, though it was of course a Mars from another moment, a bygone Mars, fixed in memory by the application’s creator. In the distance Saeed’s family heard the sound of automatic gunfire, flat cracks that were not loud and yet carried to them cleanly. They sat a little longer. Then Saeed’s mother suggested they return inside.   When Saeed and Nadia finally had coffee together in the cafeteria, which happened the following week, after the very next session of their class, Saeed asked her about her conservative and virtually all-concealing black robe. “If you don’t pray,” he said, lowering his voice, “why do you wear it?” They were sitting at a table for two by a window, overlooking snarled traffic on the street below. Their phones rested screens-down between them, like the weapons of desperadoes at a parley. She smiled. Took a sip. And spoke, the lower half of her face obscured by her cup. “So men don’t fuck with me,” she said.

Bookclub Guide

Discussion Questions for Exit West   1. “It might seem odd that in cities teetering at the edge of the abyss young people still go to class . . . but that is the way of things, with cities as with life,” the narrator states at the beginning of Exit West.  In what ways do Saeed and Nadia preserve a semblance of a daily routine throughout the novel? Why do you think this—and pleasures like weed, records, sex, the rare hot shower—becomes so important to them?   2“Location, location, location, the realtors say. Geography is destiny, respond the historians.” What do you think the narrator means by this? Does he take a side? What about the novel as a whole?   3. Early in Exit West, Saeed’s family spends a pleasant evening outside with their telescope, until “the sound of automatic gunfire, flat cracks that were not loud and yet carried to them cleanly. They sat a little longer. Then Saeed’s mother suggested they return inside.” How do we see the city changing around Saeed and his family? What effect does the subtle acceleration of violence have on the reader? On the novel itself?   4. What function do the doors serve, physically and emotionally, in the novel? Why do you think Hamid chose to include this speculative, fantastical element in an otherwise very “realistic” world?   5. In an interview with Paste magazine, Hamid says, “It’s strange to say, but I really believe in these doors. . . . I think the doors exist in our world, just not the physical manifestation that I’ve given them [in the novel].” What do you think he means? Contrast this with the way he writes about technology in Exit West, as in this passage about smart phones: “In their phones were antennas, and these antennas sniffed out an invisible world, as if by magic, a world that was all around them, and also nowhere, transporting them to places distant and near, and to places that had never been and would never be.”   6. When it becomes clear that Nadia and Saeed will need to flee their city, Saeed is most fearful over leaving behind his family, his friends, the only home he’s ever known, while Nadia is most concerned about the possibility of losing her autonomy, of being forced to rely on the uncertain mercy of others, of being “caged in pens like vermin.” Why do you think their respective fears are so radically different? What do these fears say about them as characters, and in relation to each other?   7. The city where Nadia and Saeed live and from which they flee is unnamed, the only unnamed location in the book. Why do you think that is? What effect does this omission have on the reader?   8. “War in Saeed and Nadia’s city revealed itself to be an intimate experience,” the narrator states. In what ways are violence and intimacy linked throughout the novel? How does violence bring Saeed and Nadia together? How do you think their relationship might have evolved if their city had never been under siege?   9. Saeed tells Nadia, “‘The end of the world can be cozy at times.’ She laughed. ‘Yes. Like a cave.’” What purpose does humor serve in a book like this?   10. With regard to her changing neighborhood, the old woman in Palo Alto muses, “When she went out it seemed to her that she too had migrated, that everyone migrates, even if we stay in the same houses our whole lives, because we can’t help it. We are all migrants through time.” What do you think she means?   11. Do you think Exit West is a hopeful book? Why or why not?  

Editorial Reviews

“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“Brilliant…Its intelligently deployed surreal elements are also the best examples I’ve seen lately of how the nonrealistic is sometimes the best way to depict how an experience feels, as opposed to just the facts of what it is.” –Vulture “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“Spellbinding.” –Buzzfeed"A short, urgent missive in which each detail gleams with authorial intent....Exit West is lit with hope. Hamid has said that “part of the great political crisis we face in the world today is a failure to imagine plausible desirable futures,” and that “fiction can imagine differently.” “Exit West” does so, and beautifully. May Hamid’s hopes turn out to be as prescient as his concerns already are." –San Francisco Chronicle“[An] ambitious and far-roaming tale of migration and adventure…which feels like something quite new.”  –The New Republic“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 "In gossamer-fine sentences, Exit West weaves a pulse-raising tale of menace and romance, a parable of our refugee crisis, and a poignant vignette of love won and lost… Let the word go forth: Hamid has written his most lyrical and piercing novel yet, destined to be one of this year’s landmark achievements.” –Minneapolis Star Tribune “A remarkable accomplishment….not putting a human face on refugees so much as putting a refugee face on all of humankind….Hamid’s writing—elegant and fluid…—makes Exit West an absorbing read, but the ideas he expresses and the future he’s bold enough to imagine define it as an unmissable one.” –The Atlantic"Terrifying, hopeful, and all too relevant." —People Magazine"A thoughtful, beautifully crafted work that emphasizes above all the ordinariness and humanity of people who become refugees... Its language and ideas might have a particular resonance today, but they would be worth reading at any time." —Vox “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 “Brilliant….[Hamid] highlights the stark reality of the refugee experience and the universal struggle of dislocation.” –Newsday "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 “With great empathy, Hamid skillfully chronicles the manic condition of involuntary migration… ‘Exit West’ rattles our perception of home.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch  “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 “Hamid doesn’t avoid or sugarcoat the heartache and hurt accompanying contradiction and change, as people ‘all over the world were slipping away from where they had been.’ But he also has the courage to … see change as an opportunity.” -- Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel “A dark fable for our turbulent time, Exit West…portrays a world of transience, violence, and insecurity that rhymes with our world of porous borders and rabid tribalists.” – Dallas Morning News “Reading Mohsin Hamid’s penetrating, prescient new novel feels like bearing witness to events that are unfolding before us in real time." –Seattle Times “I have not been this emotionally moved by a book in years… By the end … 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 Bagby, KMUW Wichita “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"A sly and intelligent book, written with Hamid’s extraordinary eye for character—their desires, hopes, grudges, and disappointments—all those ‘faulty human things’ that keep us alive and make us real. But what truly sets the book apart, both in Hamid’s oeuvre and contemporary fiction, is it’s warmth and generosity to its readers—something we need more of from books in our morally exhausting times.” –Guernica “Timely and original.” –Business Insider"Beautiful." –The Rumpus “Urgent and much needed… an antidote of sorts (one can only hope) in this moment of xenophobic fear and mistrust.” –Mother Jones “Eerily prescient.” –Joyce Carol Oates, The New Yorker.com"Brilliant… If you’re numb to the unending talk relating to migration policy, the platitudes and the protest slogans, this book provides a way to reignite much-needed empathy because, above all, Hamid reminds us that no matter hard governments try, they can never really close doors.” –Toronto Star “A commanding yet fanciful outlook on the current climate of global immigration and international xenophobia, as told through the poignant love story of those caught in between… A beautiful rendering of the lives hidden in the folds of war.” –AV Club“Every so often, the right author, the right story, and the right moment converge for an altogether perfect reading experience— I’m happy to tell you Mohsin Hamid is that author, Exit West is that story, and this is the moment." –Parnassus Musing “While we’ve permitted ourselves to go soft, we can be thankful for the writers in the rest of the world who continue to write in the tradition of our greatest literary works. No surprise, then, that Mohsin Hamid belongs in that pattern… a writer celebrating the possibility of hope. That’s what makes his latest novel so profound.” –Counterpunch “Political without being didactic and romantic without being maudlin… Exit West is a richly imaginative work with a firm grip on what is happening to someone somewhere right this minute.” –BookPage “[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“[Q]uietly exquisite… A masterpiece of humanity and restraint, it is an antidote to the cruelty of a present in which those who leave the places of their birth seeking a better life are routinely demonized, imprisoned or left to die… There’s a lightness to the author’s lyricism, his every sentence fit to be whispered. It’s the language of daydreams, where the deeply desired intermingles with the plainly surreal.” –The Globe and Mail “Hamid shows how determination cannot be crushed, that people have hope in desperation, and that their circumstances alter their lives immeasurably.” –Winnipeg Free Press “Exit West operates on another plane… Beautiful and poetic even at its most devastating.” –Book Riot "Remarkably current and timeless … A haunting and heart-piercing novel that reminds us to be courageous and to handle our shared humanity with great care. This is required reading.” –Uli Beutter Cohen, Eye Level “Raw, poetic, and frighteningly prescient.” —BBC.com "Spellbinding." —Booklist (starred)  “Timely and resonant.” —Publisher's Weekly, Top 10 Most-Anticipated Literary Fiction of 2017 "One of the most bittersweet love stories in modern memory...a book to savor." —Kirkus Reviews "[H]eartbreakingly relevant." —Library Journal