The Reluctant Fundamentalist (Review)

July 30, 2012

Book cover for "The Reluctant Fundamentalist" by Mohsin Hamid.Title: The Reluctant Fundamentalist

Author: Mohsin Hamid

Narrator: Satya Bhabha

Publication Year: 2008

Pages: 191 (audio length: 4 hours 38 minutes)

Genre: Fiction

Source: Audiobook version purchased from Audible.com

From the cover:

At a café table in Lahore, a bearded Pakistani man converses with an uneasy American stranger. As dusk deepens to night, he begins the tale that has brought them to this fateful encounter . . .

Changez is living an immigrant’s dream of America. At the top of his class at Princeton, he is snapped up by the elite valuation firm of Underwood Samson. He thrives on the energy of New York, and his budding romance with elegant, beautiful Erica promises entry into Manhattan society at the same exalted level once occupied by his own family back in Lahore.

But in the wake of september 11, Changez finds his position in his adopted city suddenly overturned, and his budding relationship with Erica eclipsed by the reawakened ghosts of her past. And Changez’s own identity is in seismic shift as well, unearthing allegiances more fundamental than money, power, and maybe even love.

I rather enjoyed this book, though I didn’t expect to at first.

Particularly in the first few chapters, the way that the narration was structured – as the main character approaching and having a one-sided conversation with a random stranger – seemed contrived. There is never any direct dialogue from the other party in the entire book; later on, though, there are responses made by Changez that reword things that he is supposed to have said. The problem with this style is that it makes the other character too flat. It doesn’t make sense that he would sit still for so long to listen to the story without any real, authentic interaction. And the way that Changez talks seemed kind of stuffy on top of that, too academic – as did the assumed colonial British accent of the narrator – which didn’t help with that impression.

Once The Reluctant Fundamentalist got into the meat of the story, though, I got drawn in. The events in Changez’s life, particularly his relationship with Erica, enticed me into wanting to learn more. By the end of the book, Hamid has managed to get you right into the thick of things. I found that even though I didn’t necessary agree with the choices that Changez was making by the end, at least I understood his motivations behind them.

The ending is kind of abrupt, and at first this threw me off. After I sat with it for a minute, though, I realized how appropriate it was. It leaves the reader thinking over everything that happened in the book and forced to make their own evaluation of Changez as a character.

I’m glad that I gave The Reluctant Fundamentalist a chance, and I’ll definitely be picking up the author’s other book soon. Overall, this was a great story and a great effort, one that I think you’ll enjoy.

Rating:


This book is a part of the Ramadan Reading event happening here this month.

You can find other posts in the series by clicking on the image to the right, or by taking a look at the schedule of posts and reviews.

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