A story about migrants in an age of terrorism said through an accessible narrative.
I loved Hamid's Reluctant Fundamentalist - the book better than the film. When Exit West was shortlisted for the Booker prize book, that was when I heard the noise about the book - and also the the premise of the story. Ever keen to read about the state of migrants and their place in an age of terrorism, it was promising. My only concern was that it was a Booker prize shortlist.
I often find that such a book does not connect with mass readers like me (there are exceptions though). The writers often choose to write for the elite audience comprising mostly of Prize judges.
Shy and reserved Saeed meets the unconventional burka clad Nadia and together they set off on a relationship that spans continents and situations. Both migrants in terrorist ridden countries, their lives are in constant uproar and we follow them as they find them opening doors to a better life as their own self changes as a result of the situation.
The narrative is very fluid. It takes you through gently, deep into the story, as you take flight in the magic realism.
The very first line had me hooked. "In a city swollen by refugees but still mostly at peace, or at least not yet openly at war, a young man met a young woman in a classroom and did not speak to her."
I can easily visualise this opening line joining the list of famous first liners. What a powerful line! It has a striking effect with its imagery and characters. It gave me the sense of a love story caught in conflict. A great way to introduce the story.
The magic realism can be a bit abstract for some readers who want straight forward narrative. The story is very subtle and yet it has some strong imagery and statements.
Overall, a great read. Don't be fooled by the thin volume, the writing makes you pause and think after every few pages. Superb.