In an unnamed country in the Middle East, besieged by violent militants, mysterious black doors begin to appear, offering escape into safer, Western terrain. Soon identical doors appear throughout the world, allowing millions of migrants to flood places like Greece, London, and Australia. Among these refugees are young lovers, Nadia and Saeed, through whom the reader gets to experience the extreme dislocation, privations, and freedoms of living in exile. Mohsin Hamid explores the current refugee crisis and Western responses to it in visceral, sometimes magical terms, crafting a novel that is both an elegy to homelands lost and an optimistic reframing of what "home" may mean in our rapidly changing world. Recommended By Rhianna W., Powells.com
This book really touched me. It was so timely and relevant. The tools Mohsin uses to describe the plight of refugees around the world are, well, magical. I was mesmerized. Recommended By Nan S., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
NAMED ONE OF THE 10 BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE, PEOPLE, AND ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY
NAMED A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR BY TIME, GQ, O THE OPRAH MAGAZINE, AND LA TIMES
FINALIST FOR THE 2017 MAN BOOKER PRIZE
FINALIST FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARDS
"A breathtaking novel…[that] arrives at an urgent time." – NPR.org
"Moving, audacious, and indelibly human." – Entertainment Weekly, "A" rating
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.
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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)
About the Author
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, have appeared in The New York Times, the Washington Post, The New York Review of Books, and elsewhere. He lives in Lahore, Pakistan.