Everyone was raving about this book by Mohsin Hamid so I added it to my TBR. Despite the fact that it’s super short, I figured the chances of my getting around to reading it would be slim, and since I’ve gotten into listening to more audiobooks lately, I decided to audiobook this one.
Hamid narrates it himself, and he’s an OK narrator. He has a soothing voice, but it’s also pretty monotone. I would have livened it up, but far be it from me to tell a writer how they should tell their own story.
What It’s About
The novel is about emigration, specifically refugees who often get shuttled around the world to various places where no one wants them, but they can’t go home, so they get stuck living on the fringes of society in unfamiliar worlds.
In Hamid’s take on the situation, there are perfectly normal doors that will suddenly, without warning, start opening up to other parts of the world. After their country erupts in civil war, Saeed and Nadia, the main characters who have been dating for a while, decide to make their escape. Nadia has been disowned by her family for the shame of living alone as a single woman and Saeed’s mother has died and his father refuses to go with them.
When they notice that a doorway has opened, they take off and end up in Greece, where there’s already a whole colony of refugees. They stay a few weeks, then leave for somewhere else when another door opens up.
I know a lot of people were fascinated by this concept, and while it is interesting, it wasn’t enough to make me give this book five stars. It may be a bit of a spoiler that knowing ahead of time ruined the book for me.
I also just didn’t think it was very well written. Hamid used cliches and phrases that sounded like he was trying too hard to sound smart and they just didn’t work.
What I Did Like
I did like the romance between Saeed and Nadia, which, for me, was probably the saving grace of the book. I liked watching them fall in love and struggle to stay in love as they navigated these different countries and cities. They finally went their separate ways, and as much as they both resisted drifting apart, it was clearly best for both of them.
Hamid does include a neat trick that he pulled off really well and I have to give him props for it because I didn’t even notice it until I read a friend’s review: Saeed and Nadia are the only named characters in the novel. Everyone else is named in relation to them “Saeed’s father,” “the chef,” “the pastor’s daughter,” etc.
The opposite is true of places. Every place is named except for their home town, which is only ever referred to as “their city.” We don’t even know what country it’s in, although I would guess Pakistan, if only because Hamid is Pakistani. The prevalence of Islam indicates that it’s at least somewhere in the Middle East.
So I wouldn’t recommend against reading/listening to this book, but I do suggest taking all the rave reviews with a grain of salt, especially if you already know the concept behind the story.
What did you guys read/listen to this week? Anything else that didn’t live up to your expectations?