In Exit West, we meet two protagonists who are almost foils of each other. Saeed was raised on faith and is attached to his family – he learned how to pray from a young age and lived at home as long as he could. Nadia moved out of her family’s home at the first chance she got – which, as an unmarried woman in this country, is extremely risky. She wears a full-length robe not to practice her religion, but “so men don’t f–ck with me” (17).
“The following evening helicopters filled the sky … Saeed watched them with his parents from their balcony. Nadia watched them from her rooftop, alone.”Page 35
Why Saeed would think he is compatible with a partner like Nadia is, at first, confusing. However, as their country gets more war-torn, it is clear that every civilian needs to seek refuge in another country. Coming from a man with such an honest background, in a country on the brink of civil war, Saeed’s first impressions of Nadia are simply: wow.
“He watched as she walked out to the student parking area and there, instead of covering her head with a black cloth, she donned a black motorcycle helmet … and rode off, disappearing with a controlled rumble into the gathering dusk.”Page 5
Saeed is bewildered by Nadia’s confidence during times of extreme turmoil. And throughout Exit West, their journey across the globe escaping this turmoil brings them closer together as they depend on each other to find their footing in new situations — Saeed without his parents, and Nadia as an independent woman in a new country.