The WestportREADS program is dedicated to strengthening the community through the shared experience of a book or an author.

January-February 2019

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid


The Westport Library’s WestportREADS selection for January/February 2019 is Exit West by Mohsin Hamid, an award-winning novel that follows two refugees who, against all odds, find life and love on the run. Forced out of their country by civil war, this moving story celebrates love, courage, family and the fierceness of the human spirit. The book was a finalist for the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award and named a top ten best book of 2017 by the New York Times. Companion books will also be available for kids and teens.

To request a discussion leader for your group, contact Kathleen Malloy at kmalloy [at] westportlibrary [dot] org.

Guide for WestportREADS 2019.

We Asked the Author Mosin Hamid:

What inspired you to write this story?
I have migrated my whole life—from Pakistan to California at age 3, back to Pakistan at 9, to America again at 18, to Britain at 30, and back to Pakistan nine years ago. I am a thoroughly mongrelized person, a complete hybrid. So I find the current anti-migrant sentiment that one encounters all over the world to be very troubling indeed. I wanted to write in response to that.

Why did you choose to use magic realism to tell the story of Nadia and Saeed?
I'm not sure I would call it magical realism, although I don't object to that label. For me, technology is functioning to obliterate geographic distance. The black rectangles of our mobile phone screens let our minds travel instantly to any point in the world —and beyond, for that matter. The black rectangles of the doors in my novel simply allow people's bodies to do the same. Sometimes one has to bend reality slightly to explore what reality is.

How do you see this novel fitting within the current world landscape?
I think that human beings, like all animals, have always moved. Homo sapiens didn't evolve in Westport. People came there from somewhere else. The Westport of 200 years in the future will be as different from the Westport of today as the Westport of today is from the Westpost of 200 years ago. We need to become more accepting of change -- it happens whether we wish it to or not.

What would you like Westporters to take from reading Exit West?
There isn't a single message, or a puzzle that readers have to solve. The novel will hopefully make people feel things, and when we feel things, we change. Perhaps I am drawn to the idea that everyone is a migrant, and that we need to have more compassion for the migrant within each of us. 
Author photo credit Hamid Edelstein

From the New York Times, "New & Noteworthy" section, 11/6/18: “As a White House correspondent specializing in foreign policy, I’ve written dozens of stories about how the United States confronts — or more often, fails to confront — the horrors of civil war in Syria, Yemen, Libya and elsewhere. Mohsin Hamid’s slender novel EXIT WEST takes the geopolitics out of war completely — it doesn’t even name the country being ravaged — and views it purely through the lens of a young couple, Nadia and Saeed, who fall in love among the ruins. The language is spare and unsentimental; Hamid follows the young couple to bleak refugee camps in Mykonos, London and Marin County, Calif. (he names those places, sketching out a dystopian portrait of a world coping with a mass-migration future). Nadia and Saeed are brave, heartbreaking and utterly credible. But they make their journey around the world by passing through mysterious black doorways — an abrupt turn to magical realism that has left some readers puzzled. I think it captures how quickly, in an era of mass mobility and digital communications, the victims of distant wars can end up on the West’s doorstep.”—Mark Landler, White House Correspondent 

WestportREADS is an annual program dedicated to strengthening
the community through the shared experience of a book.

WestportREADS 2019 is funded by the estate of Jerry A. Tishman. 


Previous WestportREADS books include:

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Snow in August by Pete Hamill

When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

The Soloist by Mark Salzman

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa

Zeitoun by Dave Eggers

I Was Amelia Earhart by Jane Mendelsohn


The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

          My Life in France by Julia Child


          Dubliners by James Joyce


 Miracle at St. Anna by James McBride 

Bettyville by George Hodgman

Regeneration by Pat Barker


WestportREADS is funded by the estate of Jerry A. Tishman.