Book Review- Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid was shortlisted for the 2017 Man Booker price.
ISBN: 0735212171 (ISBN13: 9780735212176)
No of Pages: 231.
Price Kindle $12.02

Exit West is a love story of Nadia and Saeed, not the usual type, set in a nameless country. Nadia is individualistic brave, had moved out of her home before she met Saeed.
Saeed is homely and lives with his parents. Both are from the conservative family setup. They meet at Nadia's flat, where one day she initiates sex. Saeed discourages her--he believes in having sex only after marriage-- his parents had fallen in love but had sex only after they got married. Tradition beckons him.
Nadia and Saeed make plans to marry one day; Nadia isn't ready now. Unfortunately, things get out of control as the militants take hold of their native place showers bombs from helicopters killing people, including Saeed's mother.
A migrant population spread into their city and occupies all spaces. Saeed and Nadia agree to migrate through a Gate that transports them to the Greek island of Mykonos, their first destination. From there, they reach Britain and the US. The story theme is how their love transforms as they live through a refuge life, antagonistic, sometimes life-threatening, and partly accommodative.
After going through the daily emotional tensions and the physical exhaustion, they sleep together on a small bed, not even thinking of sex. They still care for each other, but as siblings. Finding new attractions, later, they move on in separate ways and communicate that too fades away after a while.
In the last part of the story, Saeed and Nadia meet at a cafe in their native place, which has attained a peaceful existence. Naida regrets, "if I had agreed to marry you," and Saeed repents, "if I had agreed to have sex with you."
Here and there, the narrative meanders through Australia, Japan, and other places. People say--it is Hamid's unique style to create characters moving through time and space, though I didn't find it easy. Saeed and Nadia migrate through imaginary Gates, skipping the drudgeries of the refugee travel. Was he adding magical elements to his story?

Hamid's ability to weave words to transport the reader to an imagined reality is superb, for which he deserves nothing less than a hundred per cent.

In Goodreads, I gave a rating of four out of five.
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An excerpt from my Kindle for my blog readers:
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. For many days. His name was Saeed and her name was Nadia and he had a beard, not a full beard, more a studiously maintained stubble, and she was always clad from the tip of her toes to the bottom of her jugular notch in a flowing black robe. Back then people continued to enjoy the luxury of wearing more or less what they wanted to wear, clothing and hair wise, within certain bounds of course, and so these choices meant something.
It might seem odd in cities teetering at the edge of the abyss young people still go to class-- in this case an evening class on corporate identity and product branding-- but that is the way of things, with cities as with life, for one moment we are pottering with our errands as usual and the next we are dying, and our eternally impending ending does not put a stop to our transient beginnings and middle until the instant when it does.

Saeed noticed that Nadia has a beauty mark on her neck, a tawny oval that sometimes, rarely but not never, moved with her pulse.

Not long after noticing this, Saeed spoke to Nadia for the first time. Their city had yet to experience any major fighting, just some shootings and the odd car bombings, felt in one's chest cavity as a subsonic vibration like those emitted by large loudspeakers at music concerts, and Saeed and Naida had packed up their books and were leaving class.
In the stairwell he turned to her and said, 'Listen would you like to have a coffee,' and after a brief pause added, to make it seem less forward, given her conservative attire, 'in the cafeteria?'

Nadia looked him in the eye. 'You don't say your evening prayers?' she asked.
Saeed conjured up his most endearing grin. 'Not always. Sadly.'