Magical novel makes readers think about struggles of refugees

Recommended reading

“Exit West: A Novel” by Mohsin Hamid (Riverhead Books). The author of “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” and “How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia” goes full-on magical realist in this exceptional novel, as two young lovers, Saeed and Nadia, meet in an unnamed city. They text, they hang out, they start building a life. But they must flee as war comes to their home. Except here, they use magic doors (think “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”), which offers a genuine bit of impossibility folded into the everyday horror and surrealism of life during wartime. As genre conventions mix with literary fiction mix with the reported mix with the mythic, “Exit West” is animated by the finest prose of Hamid’s career. Sadly, this novel couldn’t be better timed, as we as a planet are in the middle of the worst humanitarian crisis since the end of World War II. But it is also animated by hope, a prayer in prose that people whose lives are not immediately touched by war can find some empathy for those who have and welcome them into their communities. We are all one bad government decision away from being migrants and refugees. All of us, always.

— Joe Gross

Book events this week

Will Schwalbe. 7 p.m. Monday. The New York Times bestselling author speaks and signs “Books for Living.” BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar Blvd.

Benjamin Alire Sáenz. 7 p.m. Tuesday. The young adult author speaks and signs “The Inexplicable Logic of My Life.” BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar Blvd.

Danielle Paige. 7 p.m. Wednesday. The young adult author speaks and signs “The End of Oz.” BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar Blvd.

Sarah Andersen. 7 p.m. Friday. The cartoonist and illustrator speaks and signs “Big Mushy Happy Lump.” BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar Blvd.

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