Exit West

In an unnamed city "swollen by refugees," militants begin a violent encroachment, then secure the city, with "bodies hanging from streetlamps and billboards like a form of festive seasonal decoration." In the midst of the chaos are two young adults who meet in a corporate identity class: Saeed, a religious man with a "studiously maintained stubble," and Nadia, who wears a burqa in public only to ward off advances from men. The protagonists of Exit West, Mohsin Hamid's (How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia) heartrending fourth novel, they're spurred to an unusual form of escape.

Their relationship deepens, and they're eager to leave the city when they hear rumors of "doors that could take you elsewhere." The first leads to a sandy beach on Mykonos, others to London and to Marin, Calif. The writing throughout this novel about dislocation is gorgeous. Hamid writes that the land around San Francisco Bay stretches down "like a bent thumb, ever poised to meet the curved finger of Marin in a slightly squashed gesture that all would be okay"--a sentiment all emigrants in search of a better life would no doubt like to believe. --Michael Magras, freelance book reviewer

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