Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan Introduction
Shortlisted, 2017 Man Booker Prize
An astonishingly visionary love story that imagines the forces that drive ordinary people from their homes into the uncertain embrace of new lands.
In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet—sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair, and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city.
When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors—doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through.
Exit West follows these remarkable characters as they emerge into an alien and uncertain future, struggling to hold on to each other, to their past, to the very sense of who they are. Profoundly intimate and powerfully inventive, it tells an unforgettable story of love, loyalty, and courage that is both completely of our time and for all time. (From the publisher.)
Discussion Questions for Exit West
In what way does war distort everyday life for those who live in its midst? How does Mohsin Hamid convey the fear of truck bombs and snipers, armed checkpoints and surveillance drones? What effect does it have on the people who live through it? Have you ever lived in a war zone?
2. Describe Nadia and Saeed, their outward personalities and inner thoughts. Nadia is more driven, perhaps, while Saeed is more introspective. What attracts them to one another?
3. After the two leave home, they end up in a makeshift refugee camp. Talk about what that was like?
4. In the couple's attempts to immigrate to other countries and other continents, Hamid writes, "It was said in those days that the passage was both like dying and like being born." What do you think he means?
5. Why do you think the author uses the device of a magical door, almost as if purposely recalling C.S. Lewis's The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe? In what way is crossing territories, always under threat of thirst, punishing heat and sun, or frigid nights, comparable to stepping through a magic door?
6. Saeed continues to pray. What is he praying for? What does he believe prayer is about?
7. How does the hardship of exile change Saeed? How does it change Nadia, who seems more adaptable? Most of all, how does it test—and ultimately change—their relationship?
8. The primary story of Nadia and Saeed is interrupted with stories of threats and travails in other corners of the world. For what purpose might Hamid have interjected those brief scenarios?
9. How does each new home they settle in receive the couple? How are they made to feel? How well do they blend in to the existing cultures and population?
10. What does one of the book's final declarations mean: "We are all migrants through time."
(Questions issued by LitLovers)