In Exit West, a novel by Mohsin Hamid, two main characters find each other. Saeed and Nadia live in an unknown city full of danger and violence. Barely getting to leave their homes, they find their own ways to have fun.
Early in the novel, Saeed travels to Nadia’s apartment building. Nadia asks Saeed if he’s ever taken psychedelic mushrooms, and one thing leads to another and they try them. After hanging out under the moon Hamid writes, “They did not hold hands until Saeed’s perspective had returned, hours later, not to normal, for he suspected it was possible he might never think of normal in the same way again” (47). After taking the psychedelic drug, Saeed realizes his mind may be altered forever. His realization spans much larger than a experience with a drug, but also with his city. The things Saeed and Nadia witness will change them forever, and they will perhaps never see “normal” again. Violence and destruction are very hard things to witness and experience, not to mention on a day to day basis. Hamid does not sugar code how bad things get in their city: “…had Saeed’s mother not been killed, a stray heavy-caliber round passing through the windshield of her family’s car and taking with it Saeed’s mother’s head” (74). Hamid tells the reader “Saeed had wept only once, when he first saw his mother’s corpse and screamed” (80). Saeed’s reaction to his mother demonstrates the extremities of her injuries. Saeed’s mother’s death is just one example of a far from “normal” event many people will never have to see or experience. Exit West contains tales that are so far from “normal,” the characters may question what “normal” means to begin with.