I have been struggling unsuccessfully through a book I will not name yet - I gave up on it for now and picked up The Reluctant Fundamentalist. I was able to put it down only at the last page. With no exaggeration, this is one book you will want to (and can because it's short) read from cover to cover in one sitting. The narration style is very interesting, and the author excels in writing a thriller / 'first-person' life-story / political and social statement. I would recommend this book very highly.

Changez is a young Pakistani sitting across the table with an American and recounting his story. Changez traveled to America and obtained a college education there, which landed him an excellent job. He also fell in love with a woman there. What happened to Changez during his stay in America makes the story. The timeline brackets September 11, 2001.

The title gives away the changing pattern on Changez' political thinking. It makes the novel no less complex, however. There are innumerable individual / social / political / historical issues one thinks about as one reads this book. There are also several immigration policy and immigrant matters that one realizes can be more grey than black and white. I liked the fact that while I did not necessarily agree with some of the main character's thought processes, I definitely was able to respect and also at many points empathize with them. I was also reminded of how much our nationality (an accident of birth!) biases us for or against 'foreign' political boundaries.

One aspect I thoroughly enjoyed was the windows into Pakistani culture the author so seemlessly weaves into the narrative. Each time he brought up tea, jalebis, dress codes, beards, the marketplace, and culture-specific gestures, I found myself smiling as I read - part familiarity (with jalebis anyhow!), part nostalgia - Hamid succeeded as a storyteller by making it all so real.

The ending is definitely a thrilling one, and it is open to interpretation. I enjoyed that very much; despite having to think about possible endings, the book left me thoroughly satisfied in that the characters were explored and shared with the reader in depth. The Reluctant Fundamentalist is an enjoyable and thought-provoking read, but it is very accessible and despite the complex layers is in fact a very easy and fast read.


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