Exist West by Mohsin Hamid
Rating: 5 stars
This was an amazing book that follows two soon-to-be migrants in the beginning of their relationship as they flee from a devastating civil war. Nadia and Saeed meet during a night class and start dating despite the chaos quickly developing in their town. Road blocks, electrical outages, internet blocks and more all threaten their blossoming romance while they try to stay connected and wait out the violence exploding through their country. Unfortunately, they realize that it won’t get better soon and look for ways to escape.
This part of the story has a sci-fi element to it as migrants are able to flee through doors that connect two separate places. A door could connect a hotel room in New York to a closet in London, or a kitchen in Dubai to a club in Paris. This is the only fantasy element in the book , though, and I like how it cuts through the actual journey so the focus is on the adjustment to each new place.
While the actual journey itself would have been an interesting and probably heartbreaking story, I appreciated Hamid’s choice to spend his time on the relationships between Nadia, Saeed, and other refugees and migrants as they try to find a home. They are not welcomed in other countries, though, as the native citizens harbor deep resentments to their ‘kind’ (it’s scary how quickly people reduce fellow humans into arbitrary groups).
The language is beautiful and simple, which really adds to the feeling that this is a timeless tale of both losing and finding your place in the world.
Highly recommend to anyone interested in reading about the experiences refugees and migrants face.
Favorite quote: “When we migrate, we murder from our lives those we leave behind.”