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Exit West
     

Exit West

by Mohsin Hamid
 

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An instant New York Times Bestseller

“It was as if Hamid knew what was going to happen to America and the world, and gave us a road map to our future… At once terrifying and … oddly hopeful.” –Ayelet Waldman, The New York Times Book Review

“Moving, audacious, and indelibly human.”

Overview

An instant New York Times Bestseller

“It was as if Hamid knew what was going to happen to America and the world, and gave us a road map to our future… At once terrifying and … oddly hopeful.” –Ayelet Waldman, The New York Times Book Review

“Moving, audacious, and indelibly human.” –Entertainment Weekly, “A” rating

“A breathtaking novel…[that] arrives at an urgent time.” –NPR.org
 
As featured in the Skimm, on Late Night with Seth Meyers, Fresh Air, PBS Newshour, the cover of the New York Times Book Review, and more, an astonishingly visionary love story that imagines the forces that drive ordinary people from their homes into the uncertain embrace of new lands. 

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 remarkable 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.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Viet Thanh Nguyen
The backdrop for Exit West is both the plight of refugees from places like Syria and the specter of Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism. Hamid takes full advantage of our familiarity with these scenes to turn Exit West into an urgent account of war, love and refugees…[The] gentle optimism, [the] refusal to descend into dystopia, is what is most surprising about Hamid's imaginative, inventive novel. A graceful writer who does not shy away from contentious politics and urgent, worldly matters…Hamid exploits fiction's capacity to elicit empathy and identification to imagine a better world. It is also a possible world. Exit West does not lead to utopia, but to a near future and the dim shapes of strangers that we can see through a distant doorway. All we have to do is step through it and meet them.
The New York Times - Michiko Kakutani
…compelling…Writing in spare, crystalline prose, Hamid conveys the experience of living in a city under siege with sharp, stabbing immediacy. He shows just how swiftly ordinary life—with all its banal rituals and routines—can morph into the defensive crouch of life in a war zone…He also captures how insidiously violence alters the calculus of daily life: how windows with beautiful views become a liability; how funerals become smaller, more rushed affairs because of fighting in the streets…Hamid…is less interested in the physical hardships faced by refugees in their crossings than in the psychology of exile and the haunting costs of loss and dislocation…Hamid does a harrowing job of conveying what it is like to leave behind family members, and what it means to leave home, which, however dangerous or oppressive it's become, still represents everything that is familiar and known…By mixing the real and the surreal, and using old fairy-tale magic, Hamid has created a fictional universe that captures the global perils percolating beneath today's headlines, while at the same time painting an unnervingly dystopian portrait of what might lie down the road.
Publishers Weekly
01/02/2017
Hamid’s (The Reluctant Fundamentalist, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia) trim yet poignant fourth novel addresses similar themes as his previous work and presents a unique perspective on the global refugee crisis. In an unidentified country, young Saeed and burqa-wearing Nadia flee their home after Saeed’s mother is killed by a stray bullet and their city turns increasingly dangerous due to worsening violent clashes between the government and guerillas. The couple joins other migrants traveling to safer havens via carefully guarded doors. Through one door, they wind up in a crowded camp on the Greek Island of Mykonos. Through another, they secure a private room in an abandoned London mansion populated mostly by displaced Nigerians. A third door takes them to California’s Marin County. In each location, their relationship is by turns strengthened and tested by their struggle to find food, adequate shelter, and a sense of belonging among emigrant communities. Hamid’s storytelling is stripped down, and the book’s sweeping allegory is timely and resonant. Of particular importance is the contrast between the migrants’ tenuous daily reality and that of the privileged second- or third-generation native population who’d prefer their new alien neighbors to simply disappear. Agent: Jay Mandel, WME Entertainment. (Mar.)
From the Publisher
“Hamid exploits fiction's capacity to elicit empathy and identification to imagine a better world. It is also a possible world. Exit West does not lead to utopia, but to a near future and the dim shapes of strangers that we can see through a distant doorway. All we have to do is step through it and meet them." --Viet Thanh Nguyen, The New York Times Book Review (cover)

“In spare, crystalline prose, Hamid conveys the experience of living in a city under siege with sharp, stabbing immediacy. He shows just how swiftly ordinary life — with all its banal rituals and routines — can morph into the defensive crouch of life in a war zone. … [and] how insidiously violence alters the calculus of daily life. … By mixing the real and the surreal, and using old fairy-tale magic, Hamid has created a fictional universe that captures the global perils percolating beneath today’s headlines.” ––Michiko Kakutani, New York Times 

"This is the best writing of Hamid's career… Readers will find themselves going back and savoring each paragraph several times before moving on. He's that good. … Breathtaking.” —NPR.org

“Nearly every page reflects the tangible impact of life during wartime—not just the blood and gunsmoke of daily bombardments, but the quieter collateral damage that seeps in. The true magic of [Exit West] is how it manages to render it all in a narrative so moving, audacious, and indelibly human.” –Entertainment Weekly, “A rating”

“Hamid rewrites the world as a place thoroughly, gorgeously, and permanently overrun by refugees and migrants. … But, still, he depicts the world as resolutely beautiful and, at its core, unchanged. The novel feels immediately canonical, so firm and unerring is Hamid’s understanding of our time and its most pressing questions.” —NewYorker.com

"No novel is really about the cliche called 'the human condition,' but good novels expose and interpret the particular condition of the humans in their charge, and this is what Hamid has achieved here. If in its physical and perilous immediacy Nadia and Saeed’s condition is alien to the mass of us, Exit West makes a final, certain declaration of affinity: 'We are all migrants through time.'” —Washington Post

“Like the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, but set in the real world. You’ll be hearing about it, so get into it now.” —TheSkimm

“Spellbinding.” Buzzfeed

“Hamid graphically explores a fundamental and important ontological question: Is it possible for us to conceive of ourselves at all, except in juxtaposition to an “other”?... What is remarkable about Hamid’s narrative is that war is not, in fact, able to marginalize the “precious mundanity” of everyday life. Instead — and herein lies Hamid’s genius as a storyteller — the mundanity, the minor joys of life, like bringing flowers to a lover, smoking a joint, and looking at stars, compete with the horrors of war.” –Los Angeles Times

“In an era when powerful ruling groups — often in the minority — are gripped by a sense of religious and ethnic nativism, Mohsin offers these two, the millions they represent, and us, comfort: that plausible, desirable futures can be imagined, that new tribes may be formed, and that life will go on...  If we are looking for the story of our time, one that can project a future that is both more bleak and more hopeful than that which we can yet envision, this novel is faultless.” –Boston Globe

"In gossamer-fine sentences, Exit West weaves a pulse-raising tale of menace and romance, a parable of our refugee crisis, and a poignant vignette of love won and lost… Let the word go forth: Hamid has written his most lyrical and piercing novel yet, destined to be one of this year’s landmark achievements.” –Minneapolis Star Tribune

“A remarkable accomplishment….not putting a human face on refugees so much as putting a refugee face on all of humankind….Hamid’s writing—elegant and fluid…—makes Exit West an absorbing read, but the ideas he expresses and the future he’s bold enough to imagine define it as an unmissable one.” –The Atlantic

"Terrifying, hopeful, and all too relevant." —People Magazine

“It was as if Hamid knew what was going to happen to America and the world, and gave us a road map to our future… This book blew the top off my head. It’s at once terrifying and, in the end, oddly hopeful.” –Ayelet Waldman, New York Times Book Review

“Brilliant….[Hamid] highlights the stark reality of the refugee experience and the universal struggle of dislocation.” –Newsday

"If there is one book everyone should read ASAP, it is Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West...Short, unsentimental, deeply intimate, and so very powerful." —Goop

 “Spare and haunting, it’s magical realism meets the all-too-real.” –W Magazine

“With great empathy, Hamid skillfully chronicles the manic condition of involuntary migration… ‘Exit West’ rattles our perception of home.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch 

“Taut but haunting.” –Vanity Fair

"Powerfully evokes the violence and anxiety of lives lived ‘under the drone-crossed sky.’” —Time Magazine

“Hamid’s timely and spare new novel confronts the inevitability of mass global immigration, the unbroken cycle of violence and the indomitable human will to connect and love.” —Huffington Post

“Hamid doesn’t avoid or sugarcoat the heartache and hurt accompanying contradiction and change, as people ‘all over the world were slipping away from where they had been.’ But he also has the courage to … see change as an opportunity.” -- Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel

“A dark fable for our turbulent time, Exit West…portrays a world of transience, violence, and insecurity that rhymes with our world of porous borders and rabid tribalists.” – Dallas Morning News 

“Reading Mohsin Hamid’s penetrating, prescient new novel feels like bearing witness to events that are unfolding before us in real time." –Seattle Times

“I have not been this emotionally moved by a book in years… By the end … I was in tears and had to sit still for a bit to reflect. This timeless and timely love story is one we need; right now and forever.” –Sarah Bagby, KMUW Wichita

“A great romance that is also a story of refugees; this couldn’t be more timely.” —Flavorwire

Exit West is a compelling read that will make you think about the times we are living in right now.” –PopSugar

“Timely and original.” –Business Insider

“Urgent and much needed… an antidote of sorts (one can only hope) in this moment of xenophobic fear and mistrust.” –Mother Jones

“Eerily prescient.” Joyce Carol Oates, The New Yorker.com

"Brilliant… If you’re numb to the unending talk relating to migration policy, the platitudes and the protest slogans, this book provides a way to reignite much-needed empathy because, above all, Hamid reminds us that no matter hard governments try, they can never really close doors.” –Toronto Star

“A commanding yet fanciful outlook on the current climate of global immigration and international xenophobia, as told through the poignant love story of those caught in between… A beautiful rendering of the lives hidden in the folds of war.” –AV Club

“Every so often, the right author, the right story, and the right moment converge for an altogether perfect reading experience— I’m happy to tell you Mohsin Hamid is that author, Exit West is that story, and this is the moment." –Parnassus Musing

“While we’ve permitted ourselves to go soft, we can be thankful for the writers in the rest of the world who continue to write in the tradition of our greatest literary works. No surprise, then, that Mohsin Hamid belongs in that pattern… a writer celebrating the possibility of hope. That’s what makes his latest novel so profound.” –Counterpunch

“Political without being didactic and romantic without being maudlin… Exit West is a richly imaginative work with a firm grip on what is happening to someone somewhere right this minute.” –BookPage

“[A] thought experiment that pivots on the crucial figure of this century: the migrant… Hamid’s cautious, even fastidious prose makes the sudden flashes of social breakdown all the more affecting...Evading the lure of both the utopian and the dystopian, Exit West makes some rough early sketches of the world that must come if we (or is it ‘you’?) are to avoid walling out the rest of the human race.” –Financial Times

“[Q]uietly exquisite… A masterpiece of humanity and restraint, it is an antidote to the cruelty of a present in which those who leave the places of their birth seeking a better life are routinely demonized, imprisoned or left to die… There’s a lightness to the author’s lyricism, his every sentence fit to be whispered. It’s the language of daydreams, where the deeply desired intermingles with the plainly surreal.” –The Globe and Mail

 “Hamid shows how determination cannot be crushed, that people have hope in desperation, and that their circumstances alter their lives immeasurably.” –Winnipeg Free Press

“Exit West operates on another plane… Beautiful and poetic even at its most devastating.” Book Riot

"Remarkably current and timeless … A haunting and heart-piercing novel that reminds us to be courageous and to handle our shared humanity with great care. This is required reading.” –Uli Beutter Cohen, Eye Level

“Raw, poetic, and frighteningly prescient.” BBC.com

"Spellbinding." —Booklist (starred) 

“Timely and resonant.” Publisher's Weekly, Top 10 Most-Anticipated Literary Fiction of 2017

"One of the most bittersweet love stories in modern memory...a book to savor." Kirkus Reviews

"[H]eartbreakingly relevant." Library Journal

Library Journal
★ 02/01/2017
"We are all migrants through time," observes Man Booker Prize short-lister Hamid (The Reluctant Fundamentalist). The impulses driving such a movement, especially when rooted in violent conflict, is at the core of Hamid's exceptional fourth novel. In an unnamed city (not unlike the author's native Lahore, Pakistan), Saeed and Nadia meet, find love, and expect to share a future, but a militant takeover forces them to flee their homeland. Hamid reveals their tenuous journey from a dreamlike distance that perfectly blends reality with fablelike parable. For example, escape happens through "doors" only accessible via the right contact at the right price. While focusing the narrative spotlight on his lovers-on-the-run, Hamid regularly interrupts the couple's peregrinations with snapshot interludes—a potential murder in Tokyo, a woman threatened in Vienna, an aging grandmother in Palo Alto—that serve as reminders that life (and death) continues for everyone else, everywhere else, every which way. Both mellifluous and jarring, this novel is a profound meditation on the unpredictable temporality of human existence and the immeasurable cost of widespread enmity. VERDICT Libraries would do well to acquire this and all of Hamid's extraordinary titles. [See Prepub Alert, 9/12/16.]—Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon, Washington, DC
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2016-12-06
Hamid (Discontent and Its Civilizations, 2014, etc.) crafts a richly imaginative tale of love and loss in the ashes of civil war. The country—well, it doesn't much matter, one of any number that are riven by sectarian violence, by militias and fundamentalists and repressive government troops. It's a place where a ponytailed spice merchant might vanish only to be found headless, decapitated "nape-first with a serrated knife to enhance discomfort." Against this background, Nadia and Saeed don't stand much of a chance; she wears a burka but only "so men don't fuck with me," but otherwise the two young lovers don't do a lot to try to blend in, spending their days ingesting "shrooms" and smoking a little ganga to get away from the explosions and screams, listening to records that the militants have forbidden, trying to be as unnoticeable as possible, Saeed crouching in terror at the "flying robots high above in the darkening sky." Fortunately, there's a way out: some portal, both literal and fantastic, that the militants haven't yet discovered and that, for a price, leads outside the embattled city to the West. "When we migrate," writes Hamid, "we murder from our lives those we leave behind." True, and Saeed and Nadia murder a bit of themselves in fleeing, too, making new homes in London and then San Francisco while shed of their old, innocent selves and now locked in descending unhappiness, sharing a bed without touching, just two among countless nameless and faceless refugees in an uncaring new world. Saeed and Nadia understand what would happen if millions of people suddenly turned up in their country, fleeing a war far away. That doesn't really make things better, though. Unable to protect each other, fearful but resolute, their lives turn in unexpected ways in this new world. One of the most bittersweet love stories in modern memory and a book to savor even while despairing of its truths.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780735212176
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
03/07/2017
Pages:
240
Sales rank:
382
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

Nadia had long been, and would afterwards continue to be, more comfortable with all varieties of movement in her life than was Saeed, in whom the impulse of nostalgia was stronger, perhaps because his childhood had been more idyllic, or perhaps because this was simply his temperament. Both of them, though, whatever their misgivings, had no doubt that they would leave if given the chance. And so neither expected, when a handwritten note from the agent arrived, pushed under their apartment door one morning and telling them precisely where to be at precisely what time the following afternoon, that Saeed’s father would say, “You two must go, but I will not come.”

Saeed and Nadia said this was impossible, and explained, in case of misunderstanding, that there was no problem, that they had paid the agent for three passages and would all be leaving together, and Saeed’s father heard them out but would not be budged: they, he repeated, had to go, and he had to stay. Saeed threatened to carry his father over his shoulder if he needed to, and he had never spoken to his father in this way, and his father took him aside, for he could see the pain he was causing his son, and when Saeed asked why his father was doing this, what could possibly make him want to stay, Saeed’s father said, “Your mother is here.”

Saeed said, “Mother is gone.”

His father said, “Not for me.”

And this was true in a way, Saeed’s mother was not gone for Saeed’s father to leave the place where he had spent a life with her, difficult not to be able to visit her grave each day, and he did not wish to do this, he preferred to abide, in a sense, in the past, for the past offered more to him.

But Saeed’s father was thinking also of the future, even though he did not say this to Saeed, for he feared that if he said this to his son that his son might not go, and he knew above all else that his son must go, and what he did not say was that he had come to that point in a parent’s life when, if a flood arrives, one knows one must let go of one’s child, contrary to all the instincts one had when one was younger, because holding on can no longer offer the child protection, it can only pull the child down, and threaten them with drowning, for the child is now stronger than the parent, and the circumstances are such that the utmost of strength is required, and the arc of a child’s life only appears for a while to match the arc of a parent’s, in reality one sits atop the other, a hill atop a hill, a curve atop a curve, and Saeed’s father’s arc now needed to curve lower, while his son’s still curved higher, for with an old man hampering them these two young people were simply less likely to survive.

Saeed’s father told his son he loved him and said that Saeed must not disobey him in this, that he had not believed in commanding his son but in this moment was doing so, that only death awaited Saeed and Nadia in this city, and that one day when things were better Saeed would come back to him, and both men knew as this was said that it would not happen, that Saeed would not be able to return while his father still lived, and indeed as it transpired Saeed would not, after this night that was just beginning, spend another night with his father again.

Saeed’s father then summoned Nadia into his room and spoke to her without Saeed and said that he was entrusting her with his son’s life, and she, whom he called daughter, must, like a daughter, not fail him, whom she called father, and she must see Saeed through to safety, and he hoped she would one day marry his son and be called mother by his grandchildren, but this was up to them to decide, and all he asked was that she remain by Saeed’s side until Saeed was out of danger, and he asked her to promise this to him, and she said she would promise only if Saeed’s father came with them, and he said again that he could not, but that they must go, he said it softly, like a prayer, and she sat there with him in silence and the minutes passed, and in the end she promised, and it was an easy promise to make because she had at that time no thoughts of leaving Saeed, but it was also a difficult one because in making it she felt she was abandoning the old man, and even if he did have his siblings and his cousins, and might now go live with them or have them come live with him, they could not protect him as Saeed and Nadia could, and so by making the promise he demanded she make she was in a sense killing him, but that is the way of things, for when we migrate, we murder from our lives those we leave behind.

Meet the Author

Mohsin Hamid is the internationally bestselling author of Moth SmokeThe Reluctant FundamentalistHow to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, Discontent and its Civilizations, and Exit West, coming in March 2017. His award-winning novels have been adapted for the cinema, shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and translated into more than thirty languages. His essays and short stories have appeared in The New York TimesThe Washington Post, and The New Yorker, among many other publications. Hamid now resides in Lahore, his birthplace, after living for a number of years in New York and London.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
London, U.K.
Date of Birth:
1971
Place of Birth:
Lahore, Pakistan
Education:
A.B., Princeton University, 1993; J.D., Harvard Law School, 1997
Website:
http://www.mohsinhamid.com

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