Monday, September 9, 2013

The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid
Published April 2007 by Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Narrator: Satya Bhabha
Source: I bought this one on audio

Publisher's Summary: 
At a café table in Lahore, a bearded Pakistani man converses with a suspicious, and possibly armed, 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 Underwood Samson, an elite firm that specializes in the “valuation” of companies ripe for acquisition. He thrives on the energy of New York and the intensity of his work, and his infatuation with regal Erica promises entrée into Manhattan society at the same exalted level once occupied by his own family back in Lahore.

For a time, it seems as though nothing will stand in the way of Changez’s meteoric rise to personal and professional success. But in the wake of September 11, he 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 perhaps even love.  

My Thoughts:
There's been a nagging thought in the back of my mind lately, "I swear I finished a book I haven't written a review for yet." But there was no book sitting on my desk waiting for me to write its review so I pushed the thought aside. Suddenly, I remembered; I had yet to review this one, which I had already put into a bag to be donated back to my library. So frustrating because this one really impressed me and I don't even have a paper copy of the book to go back to refresh my mind.

If the book were a movie, it would be said that Hamid has torn down the fourth wall with his narration - the reader appears to be the unidentified American to whom Changez is telling his story. This could have been nothing more than a gimmick; instead it's a unique way to draw readers into the story and the tension Hamid is building to. It's particularly effective on audio.

I assumed that Changez was going to be turned to fundamentalism after having abuse heaped on him by angry Americans following the September 11 attacks. Instead Hamid makes Changez change much more gradual, less the result of an overt action than a culmination of the collapse of his relationship with Erica, disillusion with his work, and a loyalty to Pakistan. It's thought provoking; I often found myself wishing that I had a paper copy of the book so that I could take notes of especially interesting points and finding myself looking at things from a different point of view.

Hamid packs a lot into this short book including an ending that, literally, left me with my mouth hanging open as I was driving down the road. I highly recommend The Reluctant Fundamentalist


  1. I have this one but haven't read it. Glad it impressed you!

  2. That looks like a book I would enjoy. I've heard about it before but never picked it up.

  3. Sounds like a great book to make me think! I'll have to add it. Great review as always!

  4. I've had this on my reading list for a bit, but haven't done anything about it. I need to change that.

  5. I have found a very authentic chapter wise summary of this novel. You can access here.