Two young lovers engage in a furtive affair shaped by local unrest on the eve of a civil war that erupts in a cataclysmic bombing attack, forcing them to abandon their previous home and lives. - (Baker & Taylor)
"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
"A breathtaking novel…[that] arrives at an urgent time." -NPR.org
"Moving, audacious, and indelibly human." -Entertainment Weekly, "A" rating
As featured on the cover of the New York Times Book Review, in the Skimm, on Fresh Air, and elsewhere, an 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. - (Findaway World Llc)
*Starred Review* In an unnamed city with strict social mores, young Nadia is a rebel, an atheist who chooses to live and work independently. In religious and unassuming Saeed she finds the perfect companion. As the two fall in love, their romance is tinged with a sense of urgency and inevitability as the city falls to militia, and basic freedoms and food quickly become rarities. When the situation turns dire, Saeed and Nadia decide to migrate as thousands already have and cobble together every last bit of their savings to find safe passage out. Caught in the whirlpool of refugees from around the world, Saeed and Nadia are tossed around like flotsam, the necessity of survival binding them together more than any starry-eyed notion of romance ever could. If at times the story of refugees facing no easy choice feels derivative, Hamid (How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, 2013) smooths over such wrinkles with spellbinding writing and a story of a relationship that sucks its own marrow dry for sustenance. The concept of the door is a powerful, double-edged metaphor here, representing a portal leading to a promised land that when closed, however, condemns one to fates from which there is no escape. Copyright 2016 Booklist Reviews.
In an unnamed country in the Middle East, Saeed and Nadia meet in a night-school class and fall in love as their city comes under the control of a conservative militia group. Unable to stay under the radar as their home transforms into a tumultuous bedlam that's brimming with fear and full of desperate inhabitants, they decide to leave everything behind by taking their chances on one of the country's symbolic doors that are rumored to lead to the west. Commandingly narrated by author Hamid, the intense and often graphically violent story mines every ounce of emotionality from the hypnotic prose. His warm tone belies the increasingly bleak circumstances the couple find themselves in as members of the world's refugee population. The languidness of Hamid's delivery underscores the universality of Saeed and Nadia's circumstances without detracting from their unique story, and adds an aura of authenticity to the fictional tale, which could, nonetheless, be the reality for many. This brief, beautiful work will keep listeners on the edge of their seats until the very end. Copyright 2019 Booklist Reviews.
Library Journal Reviews
"We are all migrants through time," observes Man Booker Prize short-lister Hamid (The Reluctant Fundamentalist). The impulses driving such a movement, especially when rooted in violent conflict, is at the core of Hamid's exceptional fourth novel. In an unnamed city (not unlike the author's native Lahore, Pakistan), Saeed and Nadia meet, find love, and expect to share a future, but a militant takeover forces them to flee their homeland. Hamid reveals their tenuous journey from a dreamlike distance that perfectly blends reality with fablelike parable. For example, escape happens through "doors" only accessible via the right contact at the right price. While focusing the narrative spotlight on his lovers-on-the-run, Hamid regularly interrupts the couple's peregrinations with snapshot interludes—a potential murder in Tokyo, a woman threatened in Vienna, an aging grandmother in Palo Alto—that serve as reminders that life (and death) continues for everyone else, everywhere else, every which way. Both mellifluous and jarring, this novel is a profound meditation on the unpredictable temporality of human existence and the immeasurable cost of widespread enmity. VERDICT Libraries would do well to acquire this and all of Hamid's extraordinary titles. [See Prepub Alert, 9/12/16.]—Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon, Washington, DC
Copyright 2017 Library Journal.
Library Journal Reviews
Following the PEN/Hemingway finalist Moth Smoke, the Man Booker short-listed The Reluctant Fundamentalist, and the multi-best-booked How To Get Filthy Rich, with the last two also best sellers, Hamid returns with a heartbreakingly relevant new work. Somewhere in the Middle East or South Asia, sweet Saeed and passionate, independent-minded Nadia have fallen in love. As their city tumbles toward civil war, they finally escape, traveling from a migrant camp on Mykonos to Vienna, a west London squat, and finally California, forever glowing with promise.
Copyright 2016 Library Journal.
School Library Journal Reviews
A young couple meet and fall in love as their city disintegrates into violence in this spare, allegorical novel. Nadia is a free spirit who lives independently, while Saeed is faithful to the traditions of family and prayer. Any semblance of normal life, to say nothing of courtship, is obliterated by the danger surrounding them, so Nadia and Saeed decide they must find a way to escape. They learn of doors, fantastical portals that defy the laws of physics and grant passage to distant locations. It seems a stroke of great fortune when Nadia and Saeed access a door that takes them to a Greek island. But the respite is illusory. The world's population is on the move, and desperate migrants like Nadia and Saeed are swarming through doors in overwhelming numbers. The pair's love is tested as they ponder strategies for survival. Should they stay, or find another door? Hamid describes with fluid insight the displaced lovers' despair and longing for stability. His use of contemporary details such as cell phone dependence will remind readers that Nadia and Saeed are but a few steps removed from any college-age couple fleeing a homeland at war. VERDICT This short but potent work offers teens a visceral understanding of the world's refugee crisis. Those who are aware of the current political climate regarding immigration will be moved by this poignant love story.—Diane Colson, formerly at City College, Gainesville, FL
Copyright 2017 School Library Journal.