Opening a door on the global refugee crisis: Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
Exit West is a novel about migration, love, and borders, told through a world in which black doors have started appearing that take people to random cities. Nadia and Saeed meet in evening classes and slowly they get closer, but their city is unsafe, with bombs, militants, and executions. Soon they find themselves faced with the question: do they use one of these doors and end up who knows where, but hopefully somewhere better?
Hamid writes in a distinctive prose style that captures the pace of the novel as the characters move through a year, negotiating their own relationship as they search for where to stay. Though the book has an extensive backdrop of how the black doors and the migrating people affect the world and the very concept of a nation, the real focus is Nadia and Saeed and how their relationship changes. Nadia in particular is a gripping and sometimes enigmatic character with a strong sense of independence. Hamid uses the two characters to draw parallels and show differences in their viewpoints whilst also telling a more ambivalent kind of love story.
Exit West has an obvious relevance to the modern day and the conceit of the black doors and the difficulty of policing a world in which people can easily move between countries makes for an interesting premise. Maybe its messages about borders and humanity are a little obvious, but the charming and emotive style definitely compensates for this in a novel that is about finding your place in the world and working out who else might be there.