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Book Review “The Reluctant Fundamentalist”

One of the nice things about being a big reader is meeting people who share your passion for the medium. You can talk about your mutual loves and sometimes you get introduced to something you wouldn’t normally read that turns out to be pretty great that. That was the case with Mohsin Hamid’s novel, “The Reluctant Fundamentalist.” A friend of mine gave it to me and didn’t say much about it. The description seemed intriguing so I gave it a shot and I’m glad I did.

The protagonist of “Fundamentalist” is a young man from Pakistan named Changez. At the beginning of the book he meets an unnamed man in a bazaar at his hometown in Pakistan. He strikes up a conversation with the man and begins to tell him his life story. It’s the story of a man who comes to America for the education opportunities represented in Princeton college. He excels and lands himself a successful job. Slowly though global events starting with 9-11, make him come to question that life.

Part of the reason “Fundamentalist” is such a compelling read is the first person perspective. Hamid gives Changez a very distinct and interesting voice. It’s clear both the author and his protagonist know how to spin a story. Even mundane events seem interesting when viewed through Changez’s perspective.

The other thing that makes “Fundamentalist” so readable is a growing sense of tension. At the beginning of the novel you don’t know much about the person Changez is talking to. Hamid doles out some details over the course of the novel and the more info you get the more your sense that something explosive is going to happen. It’s heightened by the fact that you never get dialogue from the mysterious man. You only hear Changez’s responses to the things the enigmatic figure says. In the climax of the novel you do discover the connection between the two men and it makes for both an interesting and shocking finale.

“The Relucatant Fundamentalist” was a quick and enjoyable literary read that illustrates how big political events can shape the destiny and feelings of one man. If no one has snapped up the movie rights to the book I’d be very surprised. It’s a story that also have a very cinematic feel to it. So all in all it was a very engaging read. Thanks, Tony.

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