Tag Archives: Exit West

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!

Book Review: Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (4/5)

23 May

I guess I thought this book would be longer, but I was through it in a week. Maybe the physical book had wide margins or large print because the audiobook was just over four and a half hours. I’m not complaining, don’t get me wrong, but I thought this would be a longer haul than it ended up being.

Cover image via Goodreads

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

Summary from Goodreads:

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 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.

This book is very timely. Most of the world is struggling with the ‘problem’ of refugees. I think Hamid put everything in perspective well. Why do the receiving countries think they are struggling when it’s the refugees themselves who are the ones struggling. These are not people who are rejected by society in their home countries. Many of them are well educated and ambitious people whose worlds have crashed around them. Saeed and Nadia were doing fine in their hometown until everything around them changed and suddenly they weren’t. Given the chance, they’d love to be back to being ambitious and continue their education. They just need that chance and continue to travel further and further west trying to find it.

Saeed and Nadia were good characters to tell this story. I felt the story was a bit more of a general story of refugees and refugee flight. The relationship between them wasn’t really important to what Hamid wanted to say. I felt their journey was rather typical from what I’d heard and I liked how it was portrayed, especially their time in London and how contentious their presence became.

Nadia was my favorite character. Maybe it was just because she was a woman, but I was able to relate to her well. She was strong and I liked how independent she was before the fighting started in her hometown. She didn’t need Zaid, but she wanted him so was happy to have him around. I’d like to think I’m that independent.

However, their story, the migrant experience, was one that was completely new to me. It’s being shared more and more with the current state of the world, and I thought this was a great way to share it. It seemed familiar because I’ve heard it in the news and with the refugees I’ve met, but it was very far from my own story. I think that, along with the small bit of magical realism, is what made it feel so escapist.

Mohsin Hamid
Image via PRH Speaker’s Bureau

Their story while in London was my favorite part. I felt they hit a lot of the issues the Western world has with immigrants and refugees. The degradation of the home they lived in felt very real to me and probably upset the people who lived there before. The riots that came as a result of the police intervention were very impactful to me. It seemed believable that the ‘riots’ we see are often only a result of ‘peaceful requests’ for people to abandon the one thing that’s constant in their lives. Giving the refugees a way to work for a home was a must more productive way of having them move and still respect them.

A bit of a spoiler ahead, so skip to the next paragraph if you want to avoid it. The ending was sad to me, but it was very real. Just because they had escaped danger together and survived hardship together didn’t mean that the two were meant to be together. It was clear early on that Nadia didn’t like being dependent on Saeed and that Saeed wanted to be with someone who shared his religious convictions more than Nadia did. I didn’t see them falling apart as much as they did, but it wasn’t a surprise.

Hamid narrated the audiobook. I seem to be on a streak of this, or it’s a new trend. I thought he did a fine job. There was very little dialogue so I didn’t have any concerns about how he did female voices and he gave the story the weight it deserved. I’m not sure I’d want to hear him read other books, but he was great for this one.

There are a lot of people in Saeed and Nadia’s positions. It’s sadly common for people to be internally displaced or refugees, escaping violence somewhere they used to call home. I think books like this are important, putting faces and stories behind the large groups of people who many feel are an invasion. Why is asking for help taking anything away from us? Why can’t we help or share or make laws to help? People like Saeed and Nadia can add to a country and an economy but our governments are people don’t always see that. These stories can help.

Writer’s Takeaway: I think the minimal dialogue in this book increased its impact. It helped the story focus on Saeed and Nadia as refugees instead of their interpersonal relationships. We heard about their struggles to find a way out of Greece and didn’t focus so much on the girl who helped them. The focus was on the tenement and less on how Nadia felt about her neighbors. There was enough character development and plot to move the story along, but it was also a general story that Saeed and Nadia share with thousands, if not millions, of other refugees.

A great and timely read. I think it will do well for book club. Four out of Five Stars.

Until next time, write on.

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

Related Posts:
Review: Exit West by Mohsin Hamid | drizzle review
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid | The Desert Bookworm
Exit West – Best Novel of 2017? | CambridgeEditors Blog
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid | BookConscious
REVIEW: EXIT WEST, BY MOHSIN HAMID (2017) | Strange Bookfellows

WWW Wednesday, 15-May-2019

15 May

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently reading: I made a point to read more of Becoming Madame Mao by Anchee Min during my lunches this week. I got through another chapter and then some so I’m happy with the progress. I knew this would be slow going so I’m not worried about it.
I’m taking small bites out of A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin. I’m not yet a third done, but I’ll keep going steadily. I don’t mind drives right now and I’m taking the time to enjoy it as it comes.
I started on A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers and I’m hoping I can finish fast. I have a trip out of town next weekend and I don’t like to take signed books out of the house. I might just have to power through, though. I don’t think it will be much of a chore.
I’ve just started Born a Crime by Trevor Noah. I adore Noah on The Daily Show and I’ve liked the stand-up I’ve seen from him. I even watched his documentary on getting started in comedy in South Africa and enjoyed that. I’m really excited about this, to say the least!

Recently finished: I wrapped up Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi this week. It was a short book but it hit me hard! I thought after reading several other accounts of survival in concentration camps, I knew what I was getting into. But Levi kept shocking me. He was in the camp for a long time and his memory is very vivid. I’m glad he wrote this haunting book, the world needs to remember the atrocities we are capable of.
I also finished Exit West by Mohsin Hamid. I should have guessed that I’d finish it in a week but it still came as a surprise to me. I liked this one a lot and the bit of magical realism didn’t bother me too much. I usually hate it, but this wasn’t too overwhelming. My book club meets in a few weeks to discuss so expect a few more posts on this going forward.

I only got one review up this week which means I’m slipping seriously behind. I posted my review of The Power by Naomi Alderman last Thursday. It was very OK to me, nothing that blew me away. My book club met earlier this week to discuss so I’ll be sharing some more thoughts soon.

Reading Next: It seems too early to pick another book to read. I guess I’ll have to pick. I’m working through books that will need an Interlibrary Loan when I can so I’ve put in a request for Writing Fiction for Dummies by Randy Ingermanson. I’ve yet to be let down by the ‘Dummies’ series and it seems like a good time for this one. With my manuscript being wrapped up, I need to start another and I’m a bit lost on how to go about it this time. I’m hoping for a bit of inspiration.


Leave a comment with your link and comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

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

WWW Wednesday, 8-May-2019

8 May

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently reading: Still going slow with Becoming Madame Mao by Anchee Min but I did squeeze a bit in this week. I’m not worried about this one taking a while, I figured it would. I’ll get there eventually.
Maybe I’ll finish A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin before I finish Min. It’s not going quickly, but it’s going. I adore the narration of this one and I think I’ll continue to enjoy it for another month or so.
I picked up Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi while I was on my vacation and finished about half of it. I thought I’d get through more but I was so tired on the plane that I slept a lot. The author really focuses on the survival aspect of the camps and I’m really getting a good sense of what he remembers and went through.
I started  Exit West by Mohsin Hamid on audio. Still too early to really say, but I’m excited to start this one after hearing so much about it! It’s a nice, short one, so expect this finished quickly.

Recently finished: I finished Hawkes Harbor by S.E. Hinton right before I left on my trip. I was really disappointed with it if I’m being honest. It’s from the author of my favorite book and it lacked a lot of the emotion I love about that book. If it had been by another author, I’m not sure I would have liked it anymore. The subject matter was just not what I expected.
I wrapped up The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing by Mira Jacob and really enjoyed it. I was worried about the author narrating this one but she was amazing. Honestly, I’d listen to her narrate any book and I’d be very happy with it. I saw the author has another book out and I’m excited to see how that one is received.

I posted my review of Midwives by Chris Bohjalian. This was one that kept me up late reading. I really adored it, a full 5 out of 5 Stars.

Reading Next: I’m going to keep chipping away at my TBR. I want to read one of my autographed books next since I don’t like those leaving the house and I’ll be home for a few weeks. So I’ll tackle A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers. I’ve liked most things I’ve ready by Eggers so I’m excited to read his memoir as well.


Leave a comment with your link and comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

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

WWW Wednesday, 1-May-2019

1 May

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently reading: I’ve had to work through lunch a lot the past few weeks so I haven’t made much progress on Becoming Madame Mao by Anchee Min. Partially, it’s because I’m not super interested, but it’s mostly because of time. I hope work slows down and I can get back to it soon.
I’m still moving forward with Hawkes Harbor by S.E. Hinton. I hoped to be done with it by now, but it’s not gripping me. I actually dislike it so far, but I’m hoping things turn around a bit and finish on a better note than they’ve started. I’ll be really disappointed otherwise.
I’ll finish The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing by Mira Jacob by next week. This one has been enjoyable and I like the back-and-forth timeline it’s using to build suspense. And I keep thinking about the title and all of the things it can mean for the book. I wonder what I’ll finally decide on when I’m done.
As predicted, A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin will be a long haul. I’m on disk four of 36 so I feel like it’s going pretty well. We’ll see if I can keep this pace up for a few weeks and actually finish before it’s due back at the library. I might have to beg for a long renewal.

Recently finished: Nothing new this week, unfortunately. I’m OK with this because I’ve been so far behind on reviews and I finally get a chance to catch up! I think there will be two here next week, though.

I’ve knocked out one more review this week, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. I absolutely adored this book and I wish I could imitate Simon’s voice. Albertalli is so talented. I gave it Five out of Five Stars.

Reading Next: I’m leaving for a trip tonight and I’m taking Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi with me. I hope to start reading it while I’m gone and on the plane home at the latest.
I’ll need a new eaudiobook soon as well and I’ll be picking up our next book club selection, Exit West by Mohsin Hamid. I’ve only heard good things about this one so I’m excited to dive in soon and see what all the fuss is about.


Leave a comment with your link and comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

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