Critical attention continues to build for Mohsin Hamid’s newest novel, Exit West (PRH/Riverhead; Penguin Audio/BOT; OverDrive Sample). The book review aggregator LitHub excerpts fifteen consumer reviews and several libraries are showing high holds ratios on light ordering. UPDATE: The New Yorker adds to the reviews, calling the novel “Instantly Canonical” and Entertainment Weekly gives it a straight A.
As we noted in Titles to Know for this week, Michiko Kakutani gave it a laudatory early review in the daily NYT, saying that, like Hamid’s earlier works, the novel explores, “the convulsive changes overtaking the world, as tradition and modernity clash headlong, and as refugees — fleeing war or poverty or hopelessness — try to make their way to safer ground.”
Considered important enough for double coverage, it is also be featured on the cover of the upcoming NYT Sunday Book Review, in another strong review by Viet Thanh Nguyen [not available online yet], whose own novel about refugees, The Sympathizer (Grove Press, April 2015) won him a Pulitzer Prize and even landed him among the celebrities on late night TV. He praises Hamid’s ability to “exploit fiction’s capacity to elicit empathy and identification to imagine a better world.”
NPR does a double take as well. Steve Inskeep interviews Hamid on Morning Edition and frequent NPR reviewer Michael Schlub calls Exit West “breathtaking” and “haunting” and says it is “at once a love story, a fable, and a chilling reflection on what it means to be displaced, unable to return home and unwelcome anywhere else.”
Inskeep and Hamid talk about immigration and draw parallels between Pakistan and America, with Hamid saying:
“I think America needs to be very careful. America has built something with great difficulty over a large period of time. And for America to start to become the kind of democracy that Pakistan is would be an incredible loss for America and for the world.”