📖: Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West (2017)
🍸: open door
Why this book?
To cross boundaries in the world of Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West, you need to first find an open door. This is no easy task: while many portals exist, it is uncertain which will actually transport you to a different place. Once you find one, you simply step through the threshold. You might end up in a woman’s bedroom closet in Australia, an abandoned mansion in England, or at a refugee camp in Greece. It doesn’t matter because what’s on the other side appears to be better than what you are leaving behind.
The novel’s main characters, Nadia and Saeed, harbor this hope as they hastily leave their war-torn country through a magic portal. During their journey of exile, they find that (not unsurprisingly) the “doors out, which is to say the doors to richer destinations, were heavily guarded, but the doors in, the doors from poorer places, were mostly left unsecured.”
To illustrate this, Hamid intersperses the couple’s story with vignettes of other individuals who move through “doors out” and “doors in.” In doing so, the author expands the novel beyond a story that is just about refugees to one that is also about the implications of global mass migration. It makes a statement about how “migrants” and “natives” see and treat each other upon arrival, once boundaries have been crossed and blurred.
What I love so much about this book is how marvelous, yet understated the magical realism is, because the book is not so much about the fantastic doors, how they work, or how it feels to move through that mode of transport. It is more about what happens before and after the threshold has been crossed. It is about how the choice to grant or deny entry to migrants says a lot more about the gatekeepers than about those who seek to step through.
Why this drink?
Like the open portals in the novel, this drink is magical! The secret is the butterfly pea flower infused syrup, which changes from blue to purple once we layer on the spirits and lime juice. Also, the book cover is eye-catching — so the drink should be, too.
1.5 oz mezcal
0.5 oz Italicus
0.75 oz fresh lime juice
2.5 oz still or sparkling water
1 oz butterfly pea flower infused simple syrup*
- combine and stir spirits in a mixing glass
- combine and stir lime juice and water in a separate glass
- pour butterfly pea flower syrup into a highball glass, and add ice
- add the alcohol mixture over the syrup and ice, then top with limeade
- garnish with lime wedge
**how to make butterfly pea flower infused simple syrup: Steep butterfly pea flowers in boiling water and wait until cool. Pour white granulated sugar and butterfly pea flower infused water into a pan (using a 2:1 sugar-to-water ratio) and heat the mixture on the stove until it starts to bubble. Once tiny bubbles start to appear, immediately take the boiling syrup off the stove and pour it into the into a glass jar. Cover the jar with airtight lid until cool.
Another round, please! 🥂
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Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007)