Review of Exit West

Review: ‘Exit West’ by Mohsin Hamid

Mohsin Hamid couldn’t have predicted what kind of political waters his new novel, “Exit West,” would drop into once it was released.

But with President Donald J. Trump’s attempt in January to ban immigrants, refugees and visitors from seven predominantly Muslim countries, Hamid’s tale about Saeed and Nadia, two lovers trying to escape civil-war chaos in an unidentified Near Eastern metropolis, couldn’t feel more timely.

The city where Hamid’s characters, live could be Aleppo or it could be Mosul. Its name is not the point. Wherever it is, it’s falling to anti-government militants, neighborhood by neighborhood. It’s also subject to bombings by government forces trying to hold their ground.

Weaponized drones fly overhead. Internet and cellphone service have evaporated. The electricity goes out. All municipal services — gas, water — have broken down.

Saeed’s mother, while searching for a lost earring in the family’s car, is killed by “a stray heavy-caliber round.” The entire city is victim to “the predations of warriors on both sides who seemed content to flatten it in order to possess it.”

To stay is to court imminent death. The closer the populace edges toward despair, the more credence they give to “endless rumors” of magical doors that help them escape this bedlam. Those doors do indeed exist, and Saeed and Nadia work up the nerve to take advantage of them. But the destinations they reach — the Greek island of Mykonos, central London, a shantytown outside San Francisco — don’t necessarily deliver the sanctuary they imagined.

With “Exit West,” Hamid has entered the realm of speculative fiction. It would be a pleasure to report that he has mastered the genre with the same biting prowess that he brought to his satire, “How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia,” and to his Man Booker Prize-nominated masterpiece, “The Reluctant Fundamentalist.” But that’s not quite the case.

Read further @ Chicago Tribune

~ by eneryvibes on 1,March 15, 2017.

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