Book Review: Exit West

I finished this book last night and wasn’t sure what to make of it.  It is billed as the story of two young people, Saeed and Nadia, who fall in love just as their city erupts into civil war and daily life becomes increasingly violent, unpredictable and unsafe.  Rumors of doors that lead straight to faraway places start to circulate, then prove to be real when Saeed and Nadia step through one.  To me, it sounded like magical realism, but that turned out not to be entirely true.

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Yes, walking through a door and finding yourself in Greece or London or Marin County gives off some fantasy vibes, but this book is so much more about the brutality of life as a refugee than it is about magic doors.  These doors are purely a plot device that allow author Mohsin Hamid to skip over the journey from one country to another and focus more on what happens to and between Saeed and Nadia when their surroundings change.

The magic of this book is how real it is.  It is fixed in real locations (well, except for their home country, which is never named) and depicts real life so clearly.  Saeed and Nadia go to school, they eat together in cafés, they have jobs, they scroll through social media and it’s impossible not to relate to all of this or to imagine yourself dealing with what they deal with.

I struggle to decide if this novel is a commentary on refugees and the migrant experience or a love story, but in the end, I guess it doesn’t have to be one or the other.  I loved how subtle this book was.  It is moving in a quiet way and the eventual break-up between Saeed and Nadia is both heartbreaking and expected.  Despite the relative sadness of this book, it ends on a somewhat optimistic note and I really appreciated that.  In the end though, I still feel like I have a lot to think about on this one.

What are you reading now?

Book Review: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

Remember, over the summer, when Joey and I spent a weekend at the cabin and I straight devoured One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid?  Fast forward to a month ago, when I picked up a new book from the library (that I’d heard really good things about), then had it sitting in my house for two weeks before getting around to reading it and thenjust then, did I realize it was by the same author!  I thought attention to detail was my strong suit but apparently not.

SPOILER ALERT!  If you plan on reading this (and you should), scroll no further.

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The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is, as you’d expect, centered around Evelyn Hugo, a glamorous Hollywood legend who has hand-picked an unknown journalist named Monique Grant to write the story of her life.  Turns out, though she’s been married to seven different men, the real love of her life was a fellow actress named Celia St. James.  This isn’t where I expected this book to go based on the title and the description on the back, but it turned out to be such a beautiful twist.

The relationship between Evelyn and Celia was so complicated and heartbreaking and I got so lost in their sometimes destructive but more often supportive and caring relationship.  And more than ever, I am convinced that Taylor Jenkins Reid’s writing is absolutely wonderful.  Her characters feel so well developed and the interactions between them feel real and natural.  I kept finding myself on the brink of Googling images of Evelyn Hugo before remembering she wasn’t a real person.

Just a warning, I cried something like four times during the final chapters of this book.  May or may have not texted Joey, who was out playing basketball, something like “COME HOME AND HOLD ME!” so I guess I was sort of emotionally invested in this story and in case you can’t tell, I wholly recommend this book 🙂