My rating: 4 of 5 stars
In Dec 2013, I was out with a friend who had a book titled ‘Moth Smoke’ whose title intrigued me enough to go look at who the author of the book was. The author had a more popular ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist,’ which I probably knew better because of its movie adaptation (I wasn’t reading much back then). Later on a visit to Blossom Book House, I picked up a used copy of ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’ (TRF) and read it on a plane ride across the Atlantic. The monologue that TRF was made me fall back in love with the concept of reading and there has been no turning back ever since. The author’s ‘Moth Smoke’ and ‘How to get filthy rich in rising Asia’ were both satisfying reads and I was happy to receive his new offering ‘Exit West’ for review via the Flipkart Blogger Book Review Program.
It’s been close to 48 hours since I put down Mohsin Hamid’s ‘Exit West’ after finishing it and I still think of the book in more ways than one. This genre-defying book is a lot more layered than what one would expect and is definitely a book that requires a little more attention than the author’s previous offerings.
Nadia and Saeed are the two protagonists in the book and the story that starts off in an unnamed country with the ‘romance’ between Nadia and Saeed traverses through Myrkanos, London and California through the journey of the book. Set in today’s troubled climate of immigrants and unrest in the Middle East, the story rather than talking about the physical journey of the characters from place to place, speaks more of the mental journey of the characters through the book. IN fact, the physical journey part is actually just conveyed through a portal and that made me wonder what the overall theme of the book was going to be, at times.
The journey that Saeed and Nadia undergo initially in the book is conveyed well through the use of multiple plot elements including how a good old romance essentially blossoms. While this smooth flow is often obstructed by the mention of additional characters from time to time, you don’t realise the tension in the story until it blows up into a full-fledged one. There is an occasional instance of a major turnaround in the story mentioned in a simple line that you’d miss it if you speed-read it.
‘Exit West’ at this time is still more of an enigma to me than a story and I am sure the characters Nadia and Saeed are two people I would think about from time to time. With so many unanswered questions and so many unresolved mysteries, the book doesn’t feel incomplete. However, I would have liked some of the loose ends tied rather than have them hover around in the story unrelated to the larger scheme of things. Or maybe Mohsin intended to have them related in some way I wasn’t able to understand.
If you like a bit of openness and a bit of intrigue, ‘Exit West’ is a great book which will definitely not leave you without thinking about it in the near future.