Jia Tolentino in The New Yorker:
Refugee stories often focus on transit, for obvious reasons. Children travel thousands of miles unaccompanied, hiding in train stations and surviving on wild fruit; men are beaten, jailed, and swindled just for the chance to make it on a boat that, if it doesn’t capsize and kill them, will allow them to try their luck in other dangerous seas. But in his new novel, “Exit West,” Mohsin Hamid, the author of “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” and “How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia,” tells a story about migration in which the refugee’s journey is compressed into an instant. (An excerpt from the novel ran in this magazine.) In the world of “Exit West,” migration doesn’t involve rubber rafts or bloodied feet but, rather, “doors that could take you elsewhere, often to places far away.”
When the novel opens, rumors of those doors have started circulating in a nameless, besieged country, where Saeed and Nadia, the book’s protagonists, live. They reside, at first, in an ordinary world. “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,” the book begins. The novel’s sentences tend toward the long and orotund: “It might seem odd that 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 puttering about 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 middles until the instant when it does.” That last phrase is a statement of purpose for both migration and romance. This is a love story, too.