Novel of the week
“On its own, Exit West is a terrific novel,” said Kevin Nguyen in GQ.com. Because it appears at a time when an American president is turning his back on war refugees, Mohsin Hamid’s fablelike story also “could not be more vital.” Saeed and Nadia, two young lovers, live in a city that’s never named. Yet as truck bombs and snipers announce the arrival of civil war, the setting feels familiar enough—until the couple looks for a way out and finds a magical door that transports them to Greece. “It might sound perversely counterintuitive of Hamid to use a fairy tale–like device as a way to move his characters from their war-torn homeland to a new life in the West,” said Michiko Kakutani in The New York Times. Hamid has chosen to focus not on the hardships of refugee crossings, however, but rather on the psychology of dislocation. As Saeed and Nadia pass through other magic doors to reach London, then the U.S., the novel’s warp-speed travel evokes both the world we inhabit and an “unnervingly dystopian” potential future.