A Perfect, Failed Love Story

In Exit West the main characters, Saeed and Nadia fall in love. In fact they “stay together” even through the most horrific events. We as readers see their relationship flex and fray throughout the story with them not sleeping together and not showing affection. We as readers also expect them to find their love again at the end of the story. This is because we’ve been taught that happy endings should result from this type of romance.

Instead, Nadia leaves Saeed. I like this ending because it is much more realistic to life. But I also like how It was still a happy ending; Nadia falls in love with the cook and Saeed falls in love with the preacher’s daughter. In each situation, they found something in their new relationship they realized they had lacked in their previous relationship.

You do not have only one shot at love, with each romance we have, we learn what makes us happy and change our expectations for the future.

“We are all migrants”

“We are all migrants through time.” This is my favorite sentence from Exit West. Like the literal meaning, we are always traveling during the whole lifetime. Sometime we leave our hometown reluctantly by wars, disease or political chaos that all make the society into a huge mess; sometime we step out our comfort zone to find challenges and opportunities; sometimes we don’t have a clear reason but just want to see the world. No matter which one fit us, or maybe none of them do, the environment surround us definitely changes, including encountering new people, blending in to the local culture and many other skills to learn for staring from zero. This process must be difficult or even painful.

I didn’t really understand those exhausted eyes on the trains moving outwards the city under the dusk, until it comes my turn to sit like their postures but on a different train and overseeing a different dusk. loneliness, stress and fears are keeping accumulating along the journey. Let’s try to be nice to the people who are new to our community. Being patient when a foreigner ask you the direction with an unfamiliar tone, or maybe giving the seats to those who carry huge sacks because ,one day, we will also feel powerless in a different city like a tree loses the connection to its root and is transplanted in a deserted plain. However, that’s how a new forest starts to form.

“We are all immigrants.” We are all brave explorers.

“Exit West”: Why Perfect Relationships Don’t Exist

Spoilers for the ending of the novel, by the way.

“Exit West” is a romance novel. It’s many more things, of course: an analysis of the migrant experience; an examination of religion, culture, and skin color’s various roles in society; et cetera. But at the core of the book is Nadia and Saeed’s relationship, and for this, it’s a romance novel.

The ending of the book might lead a reader to think otherwise. After all, Nadia and Saeed split up! They don’t talk to each other anymore! What kind of romance novel is this? Where’s our happily ever after?

I would argue that “Exit West” is a more accurate and mature romance novel than most works of fiction we consume in our day-to-day lives. Most relationships don’t last for a lifetime. We romanticize and glorify the lucky ones that do as some sort of perfect “true love” that everyone should try to achieve in their life, and that can lead to people sticking to relationships that aren’t working or feeling inferior because they didn’t find what society says they should be searching for.

“Exit West” doesn’t do that. Nadia and Saeed make each other happy for a while, but the events of the book change them both, and they go through some rough patches. They realize things aren’t working, and rather than lashing out or clinging to an unwilling partner, they mutually agree to end it.

We’re led to believe from the very beginning of the book that Nadia and Saeed are “meant for each other.” Their meeting is the first major event in the book. Saeed’s father tells Nadia to stick with Saeed and make sure he stays safe (although he, too, recognizes that she might want to leave when he gives her an out). Both are quite likeable characters, and more than anything, we want them to stay together because we’re rooting for their relationship.

But it’s okay to let go. Nadia and Saeed recognize that at some point. A relationship’s success isn’t measured by how long it lasted, but by whether it was healthy and improved each party’s life, and by that metric, Nadia and Saeed knocked it out of the park. It’s about the journey, not the destination.

We shouldn’t measure success by someone’s connection with others and how long it lasted, but whether they were able to better themselves by forming those connections. “Exit West” does just that.