Monday, June 5, 2017

Exit West

Exit West by Moshin Hamid, 231 pages.
When Saeed and Nadia first meet, they are in school, college, and Saeed works writing copy for a billboard advertiser. Their country is at war, but it hasn't reached their city yet. Saeed is religious, but not devout; Nadia wears a full black robe, not because she is religious, but so that "men don't fuck with me."
The first door appears in the story, but we don't know that yet, though they soon change the flow of the story, giving escape and hope to those who had neither. Doors appear around the world, connecting distant cities and countries; you walk through and you are suddenly hundreds or thousands of miles away. They appear without warning and without explanation, and they fundamentally remake the world. As they grow in number, these doors mean that national borders become meaningless, as refugees from war-torn regions, or people struggling with extreme poverty are free to wander into downtown London, or into a seaside Greek village. People re-form the groups they belong to based on other criteria besides country of origin, village, or neighborhood. For the most part, the people in this story choose to remain with people from their same ethnic or religious group, and the first-worlders attempt to fight back with camps and police and repression, but that changes as the book progresses. Saeed and Nadia's story becomes less central to the book as the world opens up for them and they make choices about how they are going to live their lives. A sharp and incisive book, and a very good read.

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