I'd seen The Reluctant Fundamentalist in bookstores all over the country, but it was only when my best friend pointed out that Mohsin Hamid, the author of the book, was the author of Moth Smoke too, was I inclined to pick the book up at the Chicago airport yesterday. As I curled into bed last night, I decided to start on the book and thought I'd read for a while before going to sleep. A few hours later, I glanced at the clock- it was 5 AM and I just couldn't put the book down. I remember reading Moth Smoke years back on the recommendation of my best friend, and I remember the both of us really loving the book. The author definitely had a way with words, and his second book doesn't disappoint in that area either. The main character of the novel, Changez, narrates the book in the form of a monologue and talks of his life in America before and after 9/11. When he starts his narration, he talks of the time he had just graduated from Princeton and says, "Every fall, Princeton raised her skirt for the corporate American recruiters who came onto campus and-as you say in America- showed them some skin." His descriptions are almost poetic at times, and when he talks of his love affair with an American girl later in the book, it is touching, gentle and moving.
As always, I'm going to try giving you a review of the book without actually giving away too much of it's content (a quick search on amazon.com will give you that if you want) but I will give you 2 bits of advice on reading this book. Number 1, if you are a voracious reader, set some time aside to try to read the entire book in one go. Don't be like me and try to read it right before going to bed, especially if you need to sleep and get to work the next day. At less than 200 pages, The Reluctant Fundamentalist is a very quick read and you'll enjoy the pace and the narrative if you get through it at one go. Recommendation number 2- if you have a book club, get them to read this book along with you. If you were thinking of starting or being part of a book club, this book would be the perfect one to start with. The book focuses more on what is left unsaid, rather than the actual story, and it's the type of book you're going to want to call your friends once you're done reading it, and discuss it's end. Trust me on this.
I loved Hamid's writing, but I'm not too sure how much I loved the main character of the novel. There is one specific moment where he fills most readers with shock and horror, and for the most part, I couldn't really relate to where he was coming from and what led him to go down that path. While in Chicago, I watched a comedy show at the Second City Theater called, "Spoiler Alert- Everybody Dies." The title of this book is sort of the same, as you know exactly where his destiny is headed, but you don't know how or why he gets there. For me, I was waiting for disaster to strike to send him spiraling out of control. That disaster never came. But were his emotions and actions justified? Unfortunately, I'm going to have to wait till some friends read the book and can then discuss that aspect with them. Whether you love or hate the book, it's going to be one that you'll be glad you read.