“The end of the world can be cozy at times.” – Exit West
I like to believe that every reader has one of those writers. The ones whose book you read and talk about to anyone who cares to listen and who lead you down a rabbit hole of everything the internet can throw up about them including where they went for high school when nobody cared for their existence because that’s how this works, right? Right? I’m probably just a creep and the internet should be abolished never mind me. The thing is, Mohsin Hamid put me in a bottle with The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2007). It took 3 months after reading it to eventually get Exit West (2017).
“To love is to enter into the inevitability of one day not being able to protect what is most valuable to you.” – Exit West
I love love. Doesn’t everyone? Love stories even better. You see, the reason I’m in this Mohsin bottle is because the love story in The Reluctant Fundamentalist was everything a *wipes tear* romcom should be. Tragic and sweet in all of the right places. And just…sigh. What I’m trying to get at are the expectations with which I got to Exit West. All the hype it came with did not make it better for me. Man Booker and shit. I was ready.
“…for when we migrate, we murder from our lives those we leave behind.” – Exit West
This feels like I’m setting up stage to say I was disappointed. But it’s not a yes or no question. This book talks about very important issues of migration. Nadia and Saeed have to leave their home country which is in a civil war. That’s the trying-to-be-serious-reviewer me and I fail miserably.
“…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.” – Exit West
What this book really is about is Nadia and Saeed’s love affair. It begins outside a lecture hall and when their lives are swept out from under their feet by the civil war that breaks out, continues in Nadia’s apartment where Saeed has to wear a robe and pretend to be her sister until the bombs get too close when Saeed’s mother passes. Nadia moves in, unplanned of course, with Saeed and his dad and eventually, they have no option but to leave this country. I love their love story. And because Mohsin is my favorite romance writer, he does that so well. The story invites you to the hesitation before the falling in love, the standards they set for their relationship and how those make no sense when the world is burning right outside their doors, the progression from lover to partner, and my oh my, the falling out of love. These are the love stories that I love to read.
“Every time a couple moves they begin, if their attention is still drawn to one another, to see each other differently, for personalities are not a single immutable color, like white or blue, but rather illuminated screens, and the shades we reflect depend much on what is around us.” – Exit West
I like how elaborate the way they fall out of love is. I’m not a sadist but it’s my favorite thing in the book. Mostly because this is not something we tell very well.
“In times of violence, there is always that first acquaintance or intimate of ours, who, when they are touched, makes what had seemed like a bad dream suddenly, evisceratingly real.” – Page 31, Exit West
So even though I was not particularly um, what’s the word, invested in how Mohsin told the story of this grand issue (migration), I was very invested in this love story. I was invested in how they handled their losses, in how they built their lives while looking for home.
“…we are all children who lose our parents, all of us, every man and woman and boy and girl, and we too will all be lost by those who comes after us and love us, and this loss unites humanity unites every human being, the temporary nature of our beingness…” – Exit West
I do wish I had read this book before The Reluctant Fundamentalist though. I mean, I’d still be in a bottle that’s for sure.