This is the story of two lovers, Nadia and Saeed. Their country is faced with war and they are faced with a difficult decision. Do they flee through mystical doorways that lead to unknown places? Or, do they stay in their familiar homes with their loved ones and face almost certain death head-on? What would you do? This novel is a little bit of everything. It is a love story, but- perhaps more than that- it is a story about what it is to be human.
Refugees pour into rich countries from poor countries through these hard to procure doorways. They flee from war-torn cities to start over with nothing. The countries that randomly receive the refugees have wildly mixed reactions. Some people are helpful and kind while others threaten and abuse them. Sound familiar? Though we primarily follow Saeed and Nadia through their hardships and doorways we are constantly reminded of the bigger problems all around them. The novel covers the topics of racism, family, nationalism, morality, war, and of course love. And although there is a touch of magical realism in the novel it is still very close to our reality.
Despite how short the book is (~230 pages) it tells a complete story with well-drawn characters. Nadia and Saeed feel realistic and they are easy to cheer for and sympathize with. Many of the supporting characters and locations are nameless, but it is still very easy to form an emotional connection with them. The book does not preach. It simply shows both a micro and macro view of a difficult situation.
As I’ve said, the plot and themes hit home because of the events happening in our world today. Exit West somehow manages to be a relevant and realistic novel while having an entertaining touch of the fantastic. Although I believe that this novel could change hearts and minds if given the chance I sadly doubt that many people with narrow minds will read it.