I give this book five stars mostly because of the fabulous book discussion it prompted in my book group last night. Exit West is a generalized, somewhat surreal story of refugees and migrants, that in the end makes us feel more compassion for those going through this, but on another level acknowledge that we all are actually refugees and migrants in one way or another.
None of us know when is the time to take a risk and make a change. All of us have different ways we identify (or don’t!) with the culture of our birth. All of us need to take a chance for a better life, and even those who stay put, take a chance. We are all “other,” and simultaneously, obscurely, all the same. At best, we just muddle through.
A lot of people passionately loved this book more than I did. I’ll own that the writing is engaging– lyrical and poetic, while at the same time, curiously matter of fact. It is interesting where reality is depicted in detail, when sweeping other parts were only imagined, no where close to pretending to be based on fact. The unsettled bouncing between the flights of fantasy, and plodding ever forward to an unknown end, made it interesting to read. Then the extrapolation began over what it all meant, for it is clearly not designed to be taken only at face value.
If you want to put yourself in the shoes of a refugee/migrant and get a sense of how they might feel, the two characters in this book help sketch in an overall possible perspective. But it was helpful to have a group to discuss this with, to sort out its layers and implications. Maybe your book club wants to read it too.