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5.0 out of 5 stars Reluctant Of All the Fundamentals, August 12, 2007
This review is from: The Reluctant Fundamentalist: A Novel (Hardcover)
Rarely will I describe a book as beautiful. Yet I cannot think of a more befitting descriptive for Mohsin Hamid's THE RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST.

The story centers around a meeting at an outdoor café in Lahore between a Pakistani man named Changez and a suspicious-looking American with the bearing that makes him out to be either military or intelligence agent. Changez engages the man initially in tea and conversation. After awhile, seeing the American most attentive --and also a bit wary of his surroundings, the Pakistani orders dinner for the two of them; meanwhile going deeper into his memories about times spent in America, as a student at Princeton and later as a rising star at a New York valuation firm. Changez also recollects his budding romance with Erica, the daughter of a wealthy investment banker who was sure to enable Changez's entry to high society. Changez was well on his way to success when the twin towers of the World Trade Center came tumbling down on September 11, 2001.

Changez's reaction to their collapse alarms and confuses him; he finds himself smiling and overjoyed. The elation, however, isn't over the deaths of 3,000 innocent people, but rather thet there are those who are able to strike at the United States --an entity which has long held him in awe with its almost limitless power, wealth and ability to affect the world: sometimes for the best, sometimes for the worst. As America becomes enraged and seeks revenge upon anything and anyone Muslim, he reads reports of Pakistan becoming coerced into the war against Afghanistan and of India taking advantage of this situation threatening his homeland. Becoming ever more distanced from our society and his work, it becomes increasingly harder for Changez to continue at his career. A job which he now sees as dependent upon the expense and suffering of others. Making matters worse, Erica, the one person who perhaps could have kept him grounded and focused, suffers a mental relapse over the shock of 9/11. Erica slips back into the debilitating state she suffered over the death of her longtime childhood friend and lover, Chris, two years earlier. Eventually Changez returns to Pakistan. Changez today is a different man from the ambitious and obedient corporate cog he described living back in New York. Yet as he speaks to the American about his country's indifference to the rest of the world, about America's unconcern for the expense her wars of revenge are costing others, he still he cannot hide his love for America. However, it is no longer the romanticizing love of an infatuated innocent, instead it is the love one has for another depite all the other's faults and abuses. A love reluctant, but love nonetheless.

The monologue telling of this story is beguiling. Changez holds the reader spellbound as he keeps the unidentified American man's interest for hours. Mohsin Hamid's gift for words and symbolism, and the intricacies he creates with them, is astounding. Admittedly, some of Changez actions and statements will repel many of us American readers (his gleeful response to the jets slamming into the Twin Towers certainly did it to me). Keep in mind, however, that this is a voice which exists amongst millions of those out there, from Totonto and London, to Pakistan and Indonesia. It is a voice we have been told to ignore, but it still won't go away. That's because it is not only the voice of the popeyed rageboys constantly being shown in our media, but also the voice of men like Changez, who tried making sense of America's dichotomies, but can no longer struggle to reconcile the willful ignorance and arrogant indifference that exists within our nation's beauty and spirit. So, we may call them "fundamentalists," but we must start to recognize that many are reluctant to be such. They have the rageboys, but we have the coldly calculating geopolitical experts, who smile and assure us of our "national interests." Changes must come from all of us.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 18, 2007 11:52:28 PM PST
H. Schneider says:
Thanks for the recommendation, will follow up. After all one of my previous home countries. Can't find the voting button though.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 19, 2007 12:03:31 AM PST
I know what you mean, most of the time the voting buttons are missing. Same thing happened just a little while ago when I was looking over your reviews. In ordwer to vote for your review of 1408, I had to search for it on the DVD's product page. I think this is being done to discourage block voting for Friends.
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