James's Reviews > The Reluctant Fundamentalist

The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid
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Apr 06, 09

bookshelves: important, social-critique
Read in October, 2008

This brief first-person narrative breaks so many conventions of the novel that you might toss it out just a few pages in. Have patience, I pray you, for you will discover that the odd narrative pace and familiar-yet-tense prose are masterful devices used to create a completely unique tale that ends with a bang.

The story is recounted as if it is a chance encounter between a suspicious-looking American abroad and a young Pakistani in his native land. Yet as the Pakistani narrator reveals himself and his once bright life among Ivy League intellectuals it is clear that not only is the tale less simple than it sounds, but that the encounter is possibly not accidental.

The crown of the story is the character of Erica, whose Dickensian name is short for the nation she embodies. The narrator's obsession for her is a grand symbol of the Islamic world's fascination with and recoil at the excesses of American life. This symbol is carried out beautifully to its tragic end.

A worthwhile read for anyone willing to bear the dark undertones that it conveys.
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