Last White Man
by Hamid, Mohsin

As people across the land awaken in new incarnations, Anders, whose skin turns dark, confides only in Oona, an old friend turned new lover, deciding to use this as chance at a kind of rebirth, in this novel of transcendence over bigotry, fear and anger.

Mohsin Hamid is the author of five novels, including the Booker Prize finalists and New York Times bestsellers Exit West and The Reluctant Fundamentalist. His essays, some collected as Discontent and Its Civilizations, have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and elsewhere. He divides his time between Lahore, New York, and London.

Hamid's (Exit West, 2017) latest concise, powerful novel begins when Anders awakens one day to find that his previously white skin has inexplicably darkened and his body has become unrecognizable. Concealing his transformation from everyone except Oona, his casual romantic partner, Anders grapples with his changed appearance and fears facing the world as a stranger in his own life. Meanwhile, Oona, still reeling from the tragic death of a loved one and saddled with the care of her aging, vulnerable, and racist mother, is still figuring out what her relationship to Anders means while also learning to cope in a rapidly destabilizing world. As more and more people begin to change skin color, Anders and Oona navigate through their new world, contending with both societal and personal upheaval. Though the spare prose effectively conveys an underlying sense of doom and violence on the periphery for most of the novel, the story ultimately surprises. Hamid imaginatively takes on timely, universal topics, including identity, grief, community, family, race, and what it means to live through sudden and often violent change. Copyright 2022 Booklist Reviews.

A brilliantly realized allegory of racial transformation. Hamid's latest opens with a scenario worthy of Kafka: A young man named Anders awakens "to find he [has] turned a deep and undeniable brown." Faced with the shock of this metamorphosis, he punches the mirror that reveals the stranger who is he. He then calls in sick, at which his boss growls, "You don't work, you don't get paid." Meanwhile, his old girlfriend, Oona, returns to the unnamed town-perhaps somewhere in South Africa, although, this being a fairy tale of sorts, it's in an aoristic nowhere-and takes up with the new Anders even as Oona's mother sighs that "our people" are changing. It's true, for the whole town is slowly turning brown. Writes Hamid in a characteristically onrushing sentence, "The mood in town was changing, more rapidly than its complexion, for Anders could not as yet perĀ­ceive any real shift in the number of dark people on the streets...but the mood, yes, the mood was changing, and the shelves of the stores were more bare, and at night the roads were more abandoned." Anders returns to work at a local gym, where he finds that the few remaining White people are looking at him with "quick, evasive stares," no longer trusting the man they called "doc" for his sore-muscle healing powers. When Anders' father-the last White man of Hamid's title-dies, there are no more of the "pale people who wandered like ghosts" in the town, and as time passes those who are left slowly lose their "memories of whiteness." Hamid's story is poignant and pointed, speaking to a more equitable future in which widespread change, though confusing and dislocating in the moment, can serve to erase the divisions of old as they fade away with the passing years. A provocative tale that raises questions of racial and social justice at every turn. Copyright Kirkus 2022 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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