The Reluctant Fundamentalist / Mohsin Hamid

A bearded Pakistani approaches an uneasy American sitting at a café table.  The setting is Lahore, the second largest city of Pakistan, and the ancient capital of the Punjab.  Striking up a conversation, Changez identifies himself not only as someone who is fluent in English, but as an individual who attended Princeton University and later worked for an elite valuation firm in New York City.  Offering to buy the American a cup of tea, he proceeds to tell of his time in America and the dissatisfaction he began to feel toward his adopted country after the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001.  The American is clearly nervous, worried that Changez represents a danger to him.  Yet his name is never mentioned anywhere in the book, nor does he directly speak.  The narrative is Changez’s alone.  His tale centers around a budding romance he had with a beautiful young American woman from a wealthy Manhattan family.  Following the September 11 attack, Changez’ attitude toward America begins to change as the allegiances to his home country start to take precedence over money, power, and perhaps even love.  An underlying tension runs like an electric current throughout the book.  Is this merely a chance encounter or something more sinister?  Could Changez’s be a terrorist?  Is the American a CIA agent?  Superbly constructed, the story is a subtle analysis of the current sense of mistrust between East and West.  It is also riveting and delightfully unsettling. Hamid, a Pakistani currently living in London, is a notable new author who should be on serious readers’ radar screens.


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