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Exit West
Cover of Exit West
Exit West
A Novel
Borrow Borrow Borrow
WINNER OF THE 2018 LOS ANGELES TIMES BOOK PRIZE FOR FICTION and THE ASPEN WORDS LITERARY PRIZE
TEN BEST BOOKS OF 2017, NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW


"A breathtaking novel...[that] arrives at an urgent time." –NPR

"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

"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.
WINNER OF THE 2018 LOS ANGELES TIMES BOOK PRIZE FOR FICTION and THE ASPEN WORDS LITERARY PRIZE
TEN BEST BOOKS OF 2017, NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW


"A breathtaking novel...[that] arrives at an urgent time." –NPR

"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

"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.
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  • From the book In a city swollen by refugees but still mostly at peace, or at least not yet openly at war, a young man met a young woman in a classroom and did not speak to her. For many days. His name was Saeed and her name was Nadia and he had a beard, not a full beard, more a studiously maintained stubble, and she was always clad from the tips of her toes to the bottom of her jugular notch in a f lowing black robe. Back then people continued to enjoy the luxury of wearing more or less what they wanted to wear, clothing and hair wise, within certain bounds of course, and so these choices meant something.

    It might seem odd that in cities teetering at the edge of the abyss young people still go to class—in this case an evening class on corporate identity and product branding—but that is the way of things, with cities as with life, for one moment we are pottering about our errands as usual and the next we are dying, and our eternally impending ending does not put a stop to our transient beginnings and middles until the instant when it does.

    Saeed noticed that Nadia had a beauty mark on her neck, a tawny oval that sometimes, rarely but not never, moved with her pulse.


    Not long after noticing this, Saeed spoke to Nadia for the first time. Their city had yet to experience any major fighting, just some shootings and the odd car bombing, felt in one's chest cavity as a subsonic vibration like those emitted by large loudspeakers at music concerts, and Saeed and Nadia had packed up their books and were leaving class.

    In the stairwell he turned to her and said, "Listen, would you like to have a coffee," and after a brief pause added, to make it seem less forward, given her conservative attire, "in the cafeteria?"

    Nadia looked him in the eye. "You don't say your evening prayers?" she asked.

    Saeed conjured up his most endearing grin. "Not always. Sadly."

    Her expression did not change.

    So he persevered, clinging to his grin with the mounting desperation of a doomed rock climber: "I think it's personal. Each of us has his own way. Or . . . her own way. Nobody's perfect. And, in any case—"

    She interrupted him. "I don't pray," she said. She continued to gaze at him steadily.

    Then she said, "Maybe another time."

    He watched as she walked out to the student parking area and there, instead of covering her head with a black cloth, as he expected, she donned a black motorcycle helmet that had been locked to a scuffed-up hundred-ish cc trail bike, snapped down her visor, straddled her ride, and rode off, disappearing with a controlled rumble into the gathering dusk.


    The next day, at work, Saeed found himself unable to stop thinking of Nadia. Saeed's employer was an agency that specialized in the placement of outdoor advertising. They owned billboards all around the city, rented others, and struck deals for further space with the likes of bus lines, sports stadiums, and proprietors of tall buildings.

    The agency occupied both floors of a converted townhouse and had over a dozen employees. Saeed was among the most junior, but his boss liked him and had tasked him with turning around a pitch to a local soap company that had to go out by email before five. Normally Saeed tried to do copious amounts of online research and customize his presentations as much as possible. "It's not a story if it doesn't have an audience," his boss was fond of saying, and for Saeed this meant trying to show a client that his firm truly understood their business, could really get under their skin and see things from their point of view.

    But today, even though the pitch was important—every pitch...
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    January 2, 2017
    Hamid’s (The Reluctant Fundamentalist, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia) trim yet poignant fourth novel addresses similar themes as his previous work and presents a unique perspective on the global refugee crisis. In an unidentified country, young Saeed and burqa-wearing Nadia flee their home after Saeed’s mother is killed by a stray bullet and their city turns increasingly dangerous due to worsening violent clashes between the government and guerillas. The couple joins other migrants traveling to safer havens via carefully guarded doors. Through one door, they wind up in a crowded camp on the Greek Island of Mykonos. Through another, they secure a private room in an abandoned London mansion populated mostly by displaced Nigerians. A third door takes them to California’s Marin County. In each location, their relationship is by turns strengthened and tested by their struggle to find food, adequate shelter, and a sense of belonging among emigrant communities. Hamid’s storytelling is stripped down, and the book’s sweeping allegory is timely and resonant. Of particular importance is the contrast between the migrants’ tenuous daily reality and that of the privileged second- or third-generation native population who’d prefer their new alien neighbors to simply disappear. Agent: Jay Mandel, WME Entertainment.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from December 15, 2016
    Hamid (Discontent and Its Civilizations, 2014, etc.) crafts a richly imaginative tale of love and loss in the ashes of civil war. The country--well, it doesn't much matter, one of any number that are riven by sectarian violence, by militias and fundamentalists and repressive government troops. It's a place where a ponytailed spice merchant might vanish only to be found headless, decapitated "nape-first with a serrated knife to enhance discomfort." Against this background, Nadia and Saeed don't stand much of a chance; she wears a burka but only "so men don't fuck with me," but otherwise the two young lovers don't do a lot to try to blend in, spending their days ingesting "shrooms" and smoking a little ganga to get away from the explosions and screams, listening to records that the militants have forbidden, trying to be as unnoticeable as possible, Saeed crouching in terror at the "flying robots high above in the darkening sky." Fortunately, there's a way out: some portal, both literal and fantastic, that the militants haven't yet discovered and that, for a price, leads outside the embattled city to the West. "When we migrate," writes Hamid, "we murder from our lives those we leave behind." True, and Saeed and Nadia murder a bit of themselves in fleeing, too, making new homes in London and then San Francisco while shed of their old, innocent selves and now locked in descending unhappiness, sharing a bed without touching, just two among countless nameless and faceless refugees in an uncaring new world. Saeed and Nadia understand what would happen if millions of people suddenly turned up in their country, fleeing a war far away. That doesn't really make things better, though. Unable to protect each other, fearful but resolute, their lives turn in unexpected ways in this new world. One of the most bittersweet love stories in modern memory and a book to savor even while despairing of its truths.

    COPYRIGHT(2016) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    October 1, 2016
    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, LLC Used with permission.

  • School Library Journal

    September 1, 2017

    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, LLC Used with permission.

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Exit West
A Novel
Mohsin Hamid
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