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Exit West (Book Review)

In a sweeping fantasy novel which touches far closer than perhaps reality in regards to the journey of migration, Hamid writes from the perspective of Nadia and Saeed- a couple falling in love in a war torn country. When they get the chance to escape through a “magic door” that takes them elsewhere, they take the risk and pay the agents to walk them through, landing at once on the Greek island of Mykonos.

“…the doors out, which is to say the doors to richer destinations, were heavily guarded, but the doors in, the doors from poorer places, were mostly left unsecured, perhaps in the hope that people would go back to where they came from — — although almost no one ever did — — or perhaps because there were simply too many doors from too many poorer places to guard them all.”

The novel follows Nadia and Saeed as they take another door to London, but when the violence by “natives” against the new immigrants gets too bad, they then take a door to a village outside of San Francisco- Marin.

“In Marin there were almost no natives, these people having died out or been exterminated long ago, and one would see them only occasionally, at impromptu trading posts- or perhaps more often, but wrapped in clothes and guises and behaviors indistinguishable from anyone else… And yet it was not quite true to say that there were almost no natives, nativeness being a relative matter, and many others considered themselves native to this country, by which they meant that they or their parents or their grandparents… had been born on the strip of land that stretched from the mid-northern-Pacific to the mid-northern-Atlantic, and their existence here did not owe anything to a physical migration that had occurred in their lifetimes.”

Throughout the book, Hamid allows the reader to struggle with what it actually means to call somewhere home and concludes in a decisive way that in fact, “we are all migrants through time.”

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© Copyright 2018 Annie Windholz

midwestern librarian, writer, activist. subscribe —

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