In the novel, Exit West, Nadia and Saeed live in a city undergoing a civil war. Nearly 25 years ago, my parents lived in Yugoslavia during its own civil war.
The moment we began reading Exit West, I could not help but relate the details of the novel to stories my parents had told me about their life during the war. Nadia and Saeed both met in an adult education course, similar to my parents, who met at a University in Serbia. Once my parents fell in love, they did everything they could to get out of Yugoslavia. They were desperate to leave their falling country, as were Saeed and Nadia in Exit West.
In the novel, Nadia and Saeed’s relationship grows stronger as the war worsens. From Saeed waiting for Nadia in front of her apartment all day, to Nadia expressing her feelings for Saeed, it is clear that the characters have a deep bond. I believe that during a war, people hold on to others they love with more strength than otherwise. At the beginning of the novel, Saeed had his parents to take care of, but no one to truly hold on to besides them. Nadia on the other hand had no one, until she met Saeed. Therefore, when Nadia and Saeed finally do form a relationship, they hold on to each other with much strength.
When my parents first immigrated to this country, they struggled both financially and emotionally. Migrating to a new place requires immense emotional strength and endurance. Accents, for example, are a huge definer between who is a native, and who is an immigrant. Having lived in Serbia for most of their lives, both of my parents still struggle with pronunciation in America. Along with this, there are huge cultural barriers for any immigrant migrating to a new country. Small differences make immigrants stand out from the natives in a crowd. Emotionally, this can be very hard for an immigrant, making them feel out of place and marginalized.
My parents held on to each other through all of the hardships they faced during the war in Yugoslavia, and the process of assimilating to a new country. I have therefore heard many stories from my parents about their migration, and have thus have been connecting their migration to Nadia and Saeed’s own migration. I am now very curious to see where Nadia and Saeed’s migration through the magical doors will lead them, and to keep track of their relationship.