Reading List | Exit West + The Shadow Land
Welcome to the Atlas Addict Reading List! Each month we’ll be reading and reviewing travel and/or culturally-themed books. Feel free to tell us your thoughts and comments!
By Kate Klassa
Mohsin Hamid, a Pakistani author whose Man Booker Prize nominated-novel The Reluctant Fundamentalist approached the aftermath of 9/11 from the perspective of a Pakistani immigrant, continues to cover heavy territory with his newest entry Exit West. Based in an unnamed country on the brink of civil war, Exit West is about Nadia and Saeed, a couple who escape their country as refugees and attempt to build new lives in their new homes. Exit West is a bit reminiscent of Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, as both take a very real event and add a unique twist to it: in Whitehead’s book, the underground railroad is a literal railroad tunneled deep underground, and in Hamid’s story, the passage through which refugees escape to new places is a doorway that leads to another country. Exit West beautifully written, and its bittersweet ending feels like the natural progression of its plotline rather than a contrived disappointment.
Bulgaria seems to exist in the American mind solely as a forgotten piece of Eastern Europe, but Elizabeth Kostova’s newest novel revels in the beauty of this overlooked country. Published seven years after Kostova’s last book, The Shadow Land wastes no time in reminding readers why Kostova is an author worth remembering, as she crafts an intricately planned tale about an American named Alexandria and a taxi driver named Bobby who become entangled in a political secret after Alexandria accidentally takes a bag from an elderly couple she assists at a hotel. The Shadow Land imbues its storyline with the country’s old charm and characters’ individually crafted personalities to create a winning combination for a story worth reading.