I received Exit West by Mohsin Hamid in the April 2017 My Lit Box subscription, and though I liked it from the get-go, all of a sudden, a quarter of the way through, it went from being an allegory of people living in an unnamed, terrorist-infested town like Allepo, to a magical realism sort of novel. This was wise of the author because I don’t generally like magical realism, but he’d already hooked me so I loved it. I’m sure that’s why he wrote it that way – to please me in particular!
The magical realism bit comes in when a couple, Nadia and Saeed, need to leave their hometown or give up their lives as good as dead, and discover that there are magical doors they can walk through, which will transport them to somewhere else in the world. If they don’t like that place, they can find another door and it will take them to another place.
In each place they emerge, there are camps of fellow door-jumpers, from all countries and regions of the world, and there are locals who don’t want the door-jumpers there. It’s all very, very similar to the very real xenophobia too many Americans fall prey to, but shown in a clever, wry, witty way.
This was a good book that was well written, well paced, and had lovely characters I was glad to get to know. Parts were funny, others bittersweet, but this is a book unlike anything I’ve read and one I feel privileged to have discovered.
Recommended for: Folks who read books to learn about other regions of the world, fans of literary YA novels (it’s not technically YA but it sort of reads like YA to me – plus there are sparklies on the beautiful color!), people who like excellent writing, fans of magical realism.
Does it pass the Bechdel–Wallace test? Yes.
Author of color / main character of color / female author / female main character: Y / Y / N / Y