The Reluctant Fundamentalist – Book Review

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.

Buy this book on Amazon.

6 comments to The Reluctant Fundamentalist – Book Review

  • I read this a little while back and I must say that I do agree with you about the ending. I loved the book but the ending was really abrupt and open to interpretation. I do like books that make you think and I don’t have to know exactly what happens but this one kind of sat with me, and it still does. I think maybe for a book that really told you so little about the present position of the protagonists, it was an ending that was just a little too vague for me. I don’t mind vague when I understand enough about the players to make a good guess at what’s going to happen but I didn’t know enough about the faceless Amercan to fill in the gaps. I still find myself wondering about it a month or so down the line though, so you must be right, the characters must have been believable. Glad you enjoyed it.

    klarusu’s last blog post..9. A Night Out With Robert Burns ed. by Andrew O’Hagan

  • Wow! Sounds like a fabulous and important book. I’ll add it to my wish list. Good review.

  • I thought this book was interesting but I agree with your thoughts on the ending.

    S. Krishna’s last blog post..North of Beautiful – Justina Chen Headley

  • I have to admit that when I first finished reading this book I was a little underwhelmed, but after reading a few other reviews I realised how clever this book is. The whole point of the book is to point out people’s prejudices. The way you view then ending reveals a lot about your opinions of the world.


    Who killed who at the end? I was shocked to discover that I had assumed that the muslim had killed the American. This shows how my views of the world are shaped by current events. It could just have easily been the other way round. Or nothing could have happened at all. I think this book requires a lot of thought, and hopefully makes you think about your own view of the world.

    Jackie (Farm Lane Books)’s last blog post..Announcing: The Comment of the Week Competition!

    • Jackie,
      You may be right. Evidently my opinions about the world are fairly grey, because for the life of me…
      *Spoiler Alert*
      …I could not decide who had killed whom but could make good arguments either way and really, I just wanted to know who the author thought died. You’re right, though, it is quite a clever ending, just one that frustrated me.

  • Jiggy

    YOu american….

    the american was sent to assasinate changez and changez knew all along. he just tried to give the american a message on the way. come on guys. why in the world should on of the pakistanis kill the american? nooooo reason


    JULIAN (and no i am not from Pakistan)