Book Club Reflection: Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

4 Jun

My book club met to discuss Exit West by Mohsin Hamid a few weeks ago. For the most part, we really enjoyed this one. We were led by a reader who had found this book a while back when it was featured on PBS. She enjoyed it so much she’s read Hamid’s backlist.

Hamid was born in Lahore, Pakistan and got his undergraduate at Princeton. He ended up getting a law degree from Harvard. Talk about smart! He currently splits his time between Lahore, London, and New York. Like Exit West, his other books have a vein of current events running through them and Hamid is a good analyst of human nature.

A lot of readers were bothered by how vague the setting of Saeed and Nadia’s hometown was. I saw several guesses for its true identity when I was reading reviews, but no one seems to know for sure. Having it unidentified makes the story a little more universal. Throughout the story, Saeed and Nadia are the only named characters as well. It helped focus on the two main characters, but also keep the story vague. You had to suspend disbelief for a moment, as you did with the doors, to not be bothered by this.

When the people passed through doors, they had no idea where they’d end up. Historically, this wasn’t always the case with immigrant groups. People would have boat tickets or train tickets. But today, you get out when you can go where ever you can. It makes the doors scary but that’s the reality today.

We puzzled over the reason for the quick interludes to other characters. They taught us little lessons that Saeed and Nadia’s story didn’t always emphasize. One was about the doors and how lost and disoriented the newly arrived can be. One was about things changing around you when you don’t leave and how it can be just as disorienting as when you do leave. And more than one was about racism and having to face it when you wind up somewhere new.

As more and more refugees started to arrive, they were watched by some over-seeing authority that we never see and is never named. They complied in groups of other people like them to feel safe from this authority figure, though Saeed and Nadia (mostly Nadia) resisted the change.

Most of our group thought the ending was a bit of a disappointment. It seemed to fizzle to a close instead of having more of an event. It was odd that it was fifty years later, putting these characters in their 70s. They’d had coffee on their first date, so it seemed appropriate that they did that again on this, their ‘last’ date. Their uncoupling was done with so much kindness that we believed they could be so civil with each other after so much time.

We had to wonder if the two would have even gotten together if Saeed’s mother hadn’t died. It was her death that pushed Nadia to move into his house. They were very different and were trying to change each other subtly. When they realized it wasn’t going to happen, they realized it was time to split. Nadia didn’t realize that she was unattracted to Zaid because of her homosexuality. Or maybe she was bisexual and was attracted to him. We thought it was more likely that she didn’t realize she could be homosexual and that was part of why she never felt comfortable with Zaid.

I haven’t started our next book yet but I’ve got an extra week because of the Memorial Day holiday. Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

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3 Responses to “Book Club Reflection: Exit West by Mohsin Hamid”

  1. nickimags @ The Secret Library Book Blog June 4, 2019 at 11:46 AM #

    Fab post! I read this ages ago and while I loved the concept of the doors I didn’t enjoy his writing style for this book.

    Like

    • Sam June 4, 2019 at 12:27 PM #

      Have you read any of his other books? I’m wondering if it’s his style or was just in this book. Happy reading!

      Like

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