Reading for Me

The Books I Have Read…..Just for Me

#29: The Reluctant Fundamentalist (Mohsin Hamid)

on June 18, 2013

Like most Americans, I clearly remember where I was on that fateful Tuesday morning when I first learned of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. I was filled with anger, fear, and confusion over the attacks. It was impossible to understand why these things were happening. We held our collective breath as we wondered if these were isolated incidents or the first wave of attacks against our country.

Time has passed and the wounds have healed for many. Many authors have added their voice to the memories through works of fiction addressing the tragic events. The Reluctant Fundamentalist was an unusual review for this American reader. Still, I found the book thought-provoking as it explored the events resulting from the attacks from a Middle Eastern point of view.

The novel is set in Pakistan and is told entirely in first person narrative. Our narrator, Changez, studied at an American university and was in the early stages of a lucrative career when the attacks occurred. Changez finds himself living in dual reality of sorts; he is enjoying the American way of life while remembering his heritage as a Pakistani. The novel is uncomfortable to read at times as Hamid mingles criticisms of the American way of life (some might view these as anti-American statements) with a profound affection for other aspects of the nation that has forever changed him. The novel’s conclusion is both ambiguous and disconcerting; the final act is left to the reader’s interpretation. This is not a novel that I think most readers will truly “enjoy”, but I do believe it will become an important part of the dialogue regarding the American role in the global community and our ever-changing understanding of the modern American melting pot.

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