The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid. Houghton Mifflin Court, 2007. 184 pages. Hardcover/Hardback.
I actually read this book quite a few years ago, but recently came across an old review I had written for it. After much re-writing, I decided to post this review here on my blog in order to share a book that I found wonderfully well-written and intriguing.
The Reluctant Fundamentalist was the first book I read by Mohsin Hamid, and I was not disappointed. This is a rather short, easy read that comes in at just under 200 pages. Hamid has an extremely unique way of telling a story that makes it impossible to put down.
The Reluctant Fundamentalist has a very basic premise: the entire story is a conversation that takes place in a cafe in Lahore, Pakistan between a Pakistani man, Changez, and an American visitor. Changez relates his story as an immigrant in America, from his rise to the top to the tragedy of 9/11 and its effect on his position. Changez lays out his life, opinions, and relationships to the American.
The point of view is written as if to imagine that the reader is the American visitor and Changez is speaking directly to you. This is a style that can be easily poorly executed, but fortunately Hamid does it beautifully; it is simply captivating. In fact, Hamid's entire prose is undeniably beautiful. He writes with a strong, almost lyrical touch that makes this book so instantly compelling. I also enjoyed Hamid's portrayal of the two men, along with their subtle tension towards one another. Each character mentioned within this story is very carefully crafted and developed with very distinct personalities.
The Reluctant Fundamentalist is a book that will make you think. There is an abundance of symbolism on every page to discover and ponder. There are some things in this book that may ruffle a few feathers, but it is important to stop and consider the meaning and the reason for various statements and actions. The purpose of this book, I believe, is to explore the emerging class of "reluctant fundamentalists," those that would not necessarily consider themself a fundamentalist, but when faced with a desperate time begin to realize their own tendencies. How does one stay true to their roots while also staying true to what is 'right'? With that in mind, I think Hamid wrote a successfully thought-provoking novel.
I initially gave The Reluctant Fundamentalist five stars for it's immense symbolism, honesty, and passion, and for now I believe I will stick with that rating.
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