Book 2 of 15 - The Reluctant Fundamentalist

This was on sale for about two bucks in the discount bin at Barnes and Noble. It looks interesting. And short.

It was both of those things. This could easily be the end of my post, but I actually liked the book...

At 181 pages, The Reluctant Fundamentalist is an incredibly quick read. Mohsin Hamid pens this tale in the first-person, speaking to an unidentified individual (who we are led to believe is a journalist) at a cafe in Lahore, Pakistan. This story of a young Pakistani coming to America and finding both academic and professional success only to reject it all and return home within five years is quite compelling. It's not thrilling, and I make this point singularly because one of the praise notes on the cover is one that makes this book out to be some amazing work of thriller fiction, when in reality it's not all that suspenseful. In fact, most of "the next page" is fairly obvious, even if it is an interesting story.

Hamid expertly weaves the theme of "fundamentals" throughout the book, and I have to believe that this was the purpose behind the title, using the oft-spoken phrase "Islamic Fundamentalism" as a mental trigger to engage the reader. In fact, there is almost no presence of said fundamentalism in this book, save the last dozen or so pages. Instead, the narrator experiences different aspects of fundamentals throughout this story: the life of an immigrant in America, the academic talents which propelled him into the business world, the business acumen which gave him professional success, love with a woman who was fundamentally unavailable to him, and then the return home to his family in Pakistan.

I really liked this $2 discount book, and I felt a bit insulted for the author that Barnes and Noble was practically willing to give it away.

Jan 18th, 2010