Exit West is a love story set in a not-too-distant future that is recognizable as a projection of our present unsettling times. Although not identified, the setting could be Damascus or Mosul today. Nadia and Saeed fall in love in this city of oppression where militants might strike and destroy at any time and families are hanging onto the threads of what it means to be family.
As the city crumbles, Saeed’s father encourages Saeed and Nadia to escape for an unknown that can only be better than the world they know. Nadia has already abandoned her family and her faith, but she wears her black hijab for protection and confidence as the couple begin to imagine a clandestine escape. Even as they do not trust others who are in the same circumstances, they realize that everyone is displaced “and so, in a sense, no one is.”
The telling is sparse, well-written, and inviting. Moshin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist was a best-selling book and then became a movie. Exit West has that same potential.
A great read for adults and high school students. (Riverhead)