The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid
Changez is a young Pakistani man who was living the American dream in Mohsin Hamid’s debut novel. Changez received a Princeton education with a scholarship, has been recruited by an extremely prestigious financial firm, and has a pretty, upper-class Manhattan girlfriend.
Then, while on Changez is on a business trip to the Philippines in September of 2001, the world changes. Terrorists bring down the World Trade Center. Suddenly Changez is treated with suspicion by strangers and acquaintances alike and nothing is the same as it was.
“The Reluctant Fundamentalist” is told by Changez as a monologue to an unnamed American man in a cafe in Lahore, Pakistan, although there is some dialogue in Changez’s flashbacks. Although I had read an excerpt, I wasn’t initially sure if this conceit would work for me for an entire book, but it did, probably thanks to all of the flashbacks.
The only thing I wasn’t really crazy about was the ending. Not because it was a bad ending, but because it was somewhat abrupt (purposefully, not by deficit of the author) and left you unsure precisely what had happened. Now, Hamid actually did this ending pretty well, but not knowing exactly what happened drives me a little crazy if I’m able to see the characters of the book as real people, as I could see Changez. No, I don’t want to use my imagination about what happened, I want to know what actually happened to him and the others! Generally, though, the fact that this annoyed me probably says good things about “The Reluctant Fundamentalist,” since I believed the main character and wanted to know his fate.
Overall I would recommend this as an interesting book about East-West immigration and culture clash in this War on Terror world.