Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Book Review: The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

On the jacket:

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 meeting . . . 

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 infatuation 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.


“It seems an obvious thing to say, but you should not imagine that we Pakistanis are all potential terrorists, just as we should not imagine that you Americans are all undercover assassins.” 

The above is an excerpt from the book The Reluctant Fundamentalist. This was my second read of a Pakistani author writing in English and I can say by now I am hooked. In fact, I am looking forward to read more English authors from across the border; their style is refreshing and different from what we get to read hear. 

The Reluctant Fundamentalist as the gyst above says, is about a Pakistani boy Changez who studied in the US, bagged his dream job and was more or less leading a content life there until 9/11. The book is an open letter to America to not assume that every Muslim is a terrorist just because there were a few followers of Islam behind the attacks.

Written in a very interesting style, a style I read for the first time - a monologue. Changez is having a conversation with an American gentleman, sitting at a cafe in Lahore. The conversation is one-sided, with Changez doing most of the talking and also depicting the other person's reactions to what he is saying, in the for of dialogues. In this conversation, Changez tells his companion about his stay in the US. It was very easy to describe Changez sitting at the cafe with his companion, having this conversation - I almost painted a picture of it in my mind. 

Personally, I loved this book. The ending wasn't a smasher but don't let that stop you from reading a powerful story. 

Rating: ****/5

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