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The Reluctant Fundamentalist
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1001 book reviews > The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

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Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ... | 894 comments The storytelling style of this book worked well for me. I found myself sitting across the table, sipping hot, sweet mint tea and enjoying the scents of spices from the nearby souks. I found myself listening to the sounds of the medina and the call to prayer. The wind on my face was hot and stinging with sand. And the story made me smile with reminiscences of the year I worked on my master's degree at NYU and lived in the city that made such an indelible impression on both the narrator and me. I listened to the entire book in one sitting. I really enjoyed it.

4.5 stars

Diane Zwang | 1309 comments Mod
Kelly wrote: "The storytelling style of this book worked well for me. I found myself sitting across the table, sipping hot, sweet mint tea and enjoying the scents of spices from the nearby souks. I found myself ..."

Kelly I am glad that you enjoyed it. I wish I had your attention span to listen to a book in one sitting.

message 3: by Kelly_Hunsaker_reads (last edited Jul 03, 2018 06:46PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ... | 894 comments Diane wrote: "Kelly wrote: "The storytelling style of this book worked well for me. I found myself sitting across the table, sipping hot, sweet mint tea and enjoying the scents of spices from the nearby souks. I..."

I think I am alone a lot, so I listen to books instead of watching tv. I also listen at 2.0 speed so this one only took 4 hours.

Gail (gailifer) | 1532 comments I really enjoyed this book also. Glad you liked it

Diane  | 2051 comments Rating: 4 stars

I read this for the first time almost a decade ago, and felt it was time for a revisit. I liked it as much now as I did then. I loved the personal and candid feel of the narration. Overall, a powerful story about the disillusionment of the American dream for a young Pakistani man in the wake of 9/11.

Melissa 4 Stars for me

This quick read has a very unique writing structure, it is basically one side of a conversation between two men, one who does all the talking. The story details his life graduating from Princeton, getting a lucrative job, becoming completely infatuated with a women.. all with 9/11 as the backdrop and feeling more & more drawn back to his native Pakistan and it’s precarious position as the US begins it’s war on terrorism.

What I loved was the untied up quality of a lot of the questions, it leaves you with this disaffected young man, who could go either way, could have already gone either way... and that unanswered ending I think is just genius in many ways. It puts you in his shoes where you can understand how he could fall in either direction with equal probability.

Kristel (kristelh) | 4248 comments Mod
Read 2013
This novel, written by Pakistani author Mohsin Hamid, is the story that takes place in a single evening in an outdoor Lahore cafe, where Changez (Urdu for Genghis) tells an American stranger about his love affair with an American woman called ‘Erica’ and of his eventual abandonment of America. Changez is a brilliant young student who obtains his education in finance at Princeton and is hired by a prestigious company as an analyst. He meets Erica while on vacation in Greece. Their relationship starts out bright and but deteriorates as does Changez’s relationship with America until we are back with him in the outdoor cafe in Lahore talking to the nervous American who we never hear other than through Changez during the entire book.

The novel was engaging in that there was a building tension but I found the monologue a bit tedious and it left me feeling disturbed. Changez seemed like a nice enough guy but he grew more and more distant and angry. He had good manners but the hostility was just there under all the nice and polite manners. Erica was mentally ill and fragile. She became more and more withdrawn, representing Changez’s relationship with America. The American was depicted as ‘nervous and distrustful’. Jim was Changez’s boss at the company and he was depicted as a man who was an outsider but successful, unmarried and possibly gay. Changez and Erica change over the course of the story from a couple who looked like love and a future together might exist to estranged isolation from each other. This is a psychological fiction with emphasis on what is going on internally with Erica, Changez and the nervous American. There was mounting tension as the story progresses. This quote pretty much describes the ambiguity of the story; “....the prospect of sugaring your tongue before undertaking even the bloodiest of tasks cannot be entirely alien to you.” The structure is a frame story; we have the story of Changez talking to the nervous American and then we have the story of Changez’s immigration to America, his success at school, first job and love affair with Erica.

I felt that this novel which looked at the racism that Arabs, Pakistani and Islamic people experience in the United States, stereotyped and was racist in reverse.

“Why do you recoil? Ah yes, this beggar is a particularly unfortunate fellow. One can only wonder what series of accidents could have left him so thoroughly disfigured. He draws close to you because you are a foreigner. Will you give him something? No? Very wise; one ought not to encourage beggars, and yes, you are right, it is far better to donate to charities that address the causes of poverty rather than to him, a creature who is merely its symptoms. What am I doing? I am handing him a few rupees--misguidedly, of course, and out of habit. There, he offers us his prayers for our well-being; now he is on his way.”

“I turned on the television and saw what at first I took to be a film. But as I continued to watch, I realized that it was not fiction but news. I stared as one--and then the other--of the twin towers of New York’s World Trade Center collapsed. And then I smiled. Yes, despicable as it may sound, my initial reaction was to be remarkably pleased.”

“ history, as I suspect you--an American--will agree, it is the thrust of one’s narrative that counts, not the accuracy of one’s details.”

“...entitled and unsympathetic American who so annoyed me when I encountered him in the classrooms and workplaces of your country’s elite.”

“....the prospect of sugaring your tongue before undertaking even the bloodiest of tasks cannot be entirely alien to you.”

This attitude wasn’t new and the prejudice and hatred toward America is not new but it’s a hard thing to see how others see you. The author did a great job of depicting why hating Americans is justifiable while wanting to get a Princeton education and the “entitlement” of foreign students to be admitted to colleges like Princeton and Harvard while despising the land where these colleges exist. I think the author’s goal was probably to make Americans aware of our own anger, prejudices and hostilities but he also failed to understand his own prejudices and stereotyping.

Diane Zwang | 1309 comments Mod
4 stars. Read in 2013
I loved this book. Mohsin Hamid is a great story teller and his writing seemed effortless to me, although I read that it took him several years and rewrites to finish it. I was captivated by this story, a real page turner for me. I think the heart of this story is the old adage “don't judge a book by its cover”. I look forward to reading more by this author and would recommend this book.

Daisey | 272 comments I put this book on my TBR Takedown list after seeing many people in the group read and review positively. I appreciated a slightly different writing style and the personal perspective it presented. I liked the setting of the market in Lahore and how it changed over the course of the day, making the reader feel they were there. Although I may have enjoyed a bit more depth in some aspects, such as the relationship with the girl, I also felt it accomplished the author's purpose for me as an American reader to stop and think about some things in a different way. I was not satisfied with the ending, but at the same time I felt that it was an absolutely perfect fit for the story.

message 10: by Leni (new) - rated it 4 stars

Leni Iversen (leniverse) | 481 comments I always have a bit of trouble with books that use the second person, placing the reader in the text. In this case "you" are a nervous looking American male, of military bearing. I am none of those things. But still, most of the book is in the first person, a Pakistani urbanite, educated in the West, tells the story of how he, after 9/11, fell out of love with the American Dream, and how America fell out of love with him. It's a quick read and quite the page turner. And while I could see early on which way the story, and the encounter with the American, was heading, I wasn't sure how it would turn out. I found the ending slightly frustrating but also very fitting. I think the book belongs on the list. 4 stars.

Jessica | 73 comments Beautiful and haunting! A monologue that tells a personal story of how a high functioning promising immigrant student becomes an activist, and then what? There are no easy explanations.

message 12: by Leni (new) - rated it 4 stars

Leni Iversen (leniverse) | 481 comments I just want to add that after reading the book I made the mistake of watching the movie. I do not recommend. They have really Hollywood-ified it - added sex, violence, and really ramped up the East Vs West, and removed all subtlety, introspection, and most of the ambiguity.

Valerie Brown | 645 comments Read May 2022

This is an interesting novel, told wholly in one voice. The focus is very narrow because of the one perspective, and it was hard for me to decide if he (Changez) was an unreliable narrator or not. Also because of this perspective I found it hard to be completely invested in Changez and his story. He seemed to be an emotionally naive young man, which is potentially to be expected given the age(s) he is in this story. I did find his relationship with Erica to be odd and his embracing of the fantasy of a life with Erica even stranger. Ha I’d does make some good points about American influence/interference in the world in general but these are very small parts of the story. 3.5*

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