The Reluctant Fundamentalist

( 214 )


From the author of the award-winning Moth Smoke comes a perspective on love, prejudice, and the war on terror that has never been seen in North American literature.

At a café table in Lahore, a bearded Pakistani man converses with a suspicious, and possibly armed, American stranger. As dusk deepens to night, he begins the tale that has brought them to this fateful meeting. ....
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From the author of the award-winning Moth Smoke comes a perspective on love, prejudice, and the war on terror that has never been seen in North American literature.

At a café table in Lahore, a bearded Pakistani man converses with a suspicious, and possibly armed, American stranger. As dusk deepens to night, he begins the tale that has brought them to this fateful meeting. . .

Changez is living an immigrant’s dream of America. At the top of his class at Princeton, he is snapped up by Underwood Samson, an elite firm that specializes in the “valuation” of companies ripe for acquisition. He thrives on the energy of New York and the intensity of his work, and his infatuation with regal Erica promises entrée into Manhattan society at the same exalted level once occupied by his own family back in Lahore.

For a time, it seems as though nothing will stand in the way of Changez’s meteoric rise to personal and professional success. But in the wake of September 11, he finds his position in his adopted city suddenly overturned, and his budding relationship with Erica eclipsed by the reawakened ghosts of her past. And Changez’s own identity is in seismic shift as well, unearthing allegiances more fundamental than money, power, and perhaps even love.

Elegant and compelling, Mohsin Hamid’s second novel is a devastating exploration of our divided and yet ultimately indivisible world.

“Excuse me, sir, but may I be of assistance? Ah, I see I have alarmed you. Do not be frightened by my beard: I am a lover of America. I noticed that you were looking for something; more than looking, in fact you seemed to beon a mission, and since I am both a native of this city and a speaker of your language, I thought I might offer you my services as a bridge.”
—from The Reluctant Fundamentalist
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
A Selection of Barnes & Noble Recommends
A psychological thriller that spans continents and cultures, The Reluctant Fundamentalist takes us from the privileged confines of Princeton University to the anxious streets of contemporary Pakistan; from the sun-baked Greek island of Santorini to a sanitarium in the Hudson Valley; from the galleries of downtown Manhattan to the highest echelons of American finance. It's a journey we take in less than 200 pages, and without leaving, until the very end, a small table at a modest tearoom in Lahore, Pakistan -- and yet it is a journey that may reveal more about the human realities of the post-9/11 world than a shelf of thick political treatises.

At the table sit two men: a young Pakistani named Changez and an unnamed American. Only Changez speaks, and his mesmerizing monologue relates his story, beginning with his happy days at Princeton and continuing through his initial success as a well-paid financial analyst. His budding romance with Erica, a beautiful fellow Princetonian, runs in counterpoint to the early promise of his career.

Then come the attacks of September 11. Over the next few months, slowly but inexorably, the innocence of Changez's ambition is shadowed by his experience of the unexpected political present -- and by his altered understanding of his Pakistani past. As his career crumbles and Erica is consumed by her own demons, Changez's sense of his identity fractures under the strain of conflicting impulses of pride, passion, and loyalty. He returns to his homeland, and the complexity of his new life there is reflected in the alternating currents of his voice — ingratiating, insinuating, articulate, respectful, blunt, affecting, and, last but not least, sinister -- as he leads his companion toward an uncertain yet ominous conclusion.

An extraordinary work of empathy and imagination, Mohsin Hamid's novel vividly dramatizes the turmoil and terror of today's world in a single, unforgettable voice.

From Our Booksellers

Crisp and compelling…with an ending that will certainly encourage discussion…. A quick read that will have a long, lingering impact." —Melissa Willits, Carmel, IN

Truly a work of genius.... Nothing is black and white in this world and Hamid doesn't let us forget that. —Diane Carr, Chestnut Hill, MA

Controversial and eye-opening. I finished the book in one sitting. —Tim Baldwin, Houston, TX

A terrifying look at the very thin line between us and them. —Sandra Guerfi, White Plains, NY

Insightful, timely, and unsettling. This book puts a human face on a currently demonized culture. —Teresa Patek, Crystal Lake, IL

Karen Olsson
The novel begins a few years after 9/11. Changez happens upon the American in Lahore, invites him to tea and tells him the story of his life in the months just before and after the attacks. That monologue is the substance of Hamid's elegant and chilling little novel&#8230A less sophisticated author might have told a one-note story in which an immigrant's experiences of discrimination and ignorance cause his alienation. But Hamid's novel, while it contains a few such moments, is distinguished by its portrayal of Changez's class aspirations and inner struggle. His resentment is at least in part self-loathing, directed at the American he'd been on his way to becoming. For to be an American, he declares, is to view the world in a certain way—a perspective he absorbed in his eagerness to join the country's elite.
—The New York Times
Laila Halaby
The courage of The Reluctant Fundamentalist is in the telling of a story about a Pakistani man who makes it and then throws it away because he doesn't want it anymore, because he realizes that making it in America is not what he thought it was or what it used to be. The monologue form allows for an intimate conversation, as the reader and the American listener become one. Are we sitting across from Changez at a table in Lahore, joining him in a sumptuous dinner? Do his comments cause us to bristle, making us more and more uncomfortable?

Extreme times call for extreme reactions, extreme writing. Hamid has done something extraordinary with this novel, and for those who want a different voice, a different view of the aftermath of 9/11, The Reluctant Fundamentalist is well worth reading.
—The Washington Post

Hamid's second novel succeeds so well it begs the question -- what other narrative format than a sustained monologue could have been as appropriate?
Publishers Weekly
Hamid's second book (after Moth Smoke) is an intelligent and absorbing 9/11 novel, written from the perspective of Changez, a young Pakistani whose sympathies, despite his fervid immigrant embrace of America, lie with the attackers. The book unfolds as a monologue that Changez delivers to a mysterious American operative over dinner at a Lahore, Pakistan, cafe. Pre-9/11, Princeton graduate Changez is on top of the world: recruited by an elite New York financial company, the 22-year-old quickly earns accolades from his hard-charging supervisor, plunges into Manhattan's hip social whirl and becomes infatuated with Erica, a fellow Princeton graduate pining for her dead boyfriend. But after the towers fall, Changez is subject to intensified scrutiny and physical threats, and his co-workers become markedly less affable as his beard grows in ("a form of protest," he says). Erica is committed to a mental institution, and Changez, upset by his adopted country's "growing and self-righteous rage," slacks off at work and is fired. Despite his off-putting commentary, the damaged Changez comes off as honest and thoughtful, and his creator handles him with a sympathetic grace. (Apr.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Publishers Weekly

Hamid grabs hold of the American Dream as seen through the eyes of a young Princeton grad from Pakistan in a post-9/11 world. As the protagonist, Changez, finds moderate business success and romantic love in New York City, his heritage and identity will be lost in a sea of subtle and blatant bigotry as well as international politics. In relating this journey from loving to loathing of all things American, Changez speaks to a nameless and speechless American whom he encounters in the marketplace of his home city, Lahore, Pakistan. Bhabha's English-influenced Pakistani accent proves soothing and inviting for listeners. His gentle demeanor captures the courteous and polite manner of Changez. His American accent comes in the form of a Midwestern accent with a confident-almost arrogant-lilt. He lapses when it comes to vocalizing women. Though lighter, his voice exudes a stoic resonance instead of a feminine one. But the casual tone of Changez telling his life story translates perfectly with the help of Bhabha's velvet voice. Simultaneous release with the Harcourt hardcover (Reviews, Dec. 11). (Apr.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
director of The Namesake Mira Nair
"A searing and powerful account of a Pakistani in New York after 9/11."
Library Journal
A Princeton degree, a high-class job, a well-connected girlfriend: immigrant Changez would seem to have it all, until the tumbling of the Twin Towers realigns his thinking. From the author of Moth Smoke, a Betty Trask Award winner. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A young Muslim's American experience raises his consciousness and shapes his future in this terse, disturbing successor to the London-based Pakistani author's first novel, Moth Smoke (2000). It's presented as a "conversation," of which we hear only the voice of protagonist Changez, speaking to the unnamed American stranger he encounters in a cafe in the former's native city of Lahore. Changez describes in eloquent detail his arrival in America as a scholarship student at Princeton, his academic success and lucrative employment at Underwood Samson, a "valuation firm" that analyzes its clients' businesses and counsels improvement via trimming expenses and abandoning inefficient practices-i.e., going back to "fundamentals." Changez's success story is crowned by his semi-romantic friendship with beautiful, rich classmate Erica, to whom he draws close during a summer vacation in Greece shared by several fellow students. But the idyll is marred by Erica's distracted love for a former boyfriend who died young and by the events of 9/11, which simultaneously make all "foreigners" objects of suspicion. Changez reacts in a manner sure to exacerbate such suspicions ("I was caught up in the symbolism of it all, the fact that someone had so visibly brought America to her knees"). A visit home to a country virtually under siege, a breakdown that removes the fragile Erica yet further from him and the increasing enmity toward "non-whites" all take their toll: Changez withdraws from his cocoon of career and financial security (". . . my days of focusing on fundamentals were done") and exits the country that had promised so much, becoming himself the bearded, vaguely menacing "stranger" who accompanies hisincreasingly worried listener to the latter's hotel. The climax builds with masterfully controlled irony and suspense. A superb cautionary tale, and a grim reminder of the continuing cost of ethnic profiling, miscommunication and confrontation.
The Village Voice
"Brief, charming, and quietly furious … Hamid … is an artist of fantastic cunning, and his second novel (following the rightly praised Moth Smoke) demonstrates … that it is possible to simultaneously address the byzantine monstrosity of contemporary existence and care about the destiny of one's characters ... [A] resounding success."
The Seattle Times
"The author develops Changez's character so convincingly that by mid-book, readers understand Changez's anger, even if they don't agree with it ... brilliantly written and well worth a read."
The San Francisco Chronicle
" ... taut and accomplished ..."
The New York Times
"... elegant and chilling ..."
The Washington Post
"Extreme times call for extreme reactions, extreme writing. Hamid has done something extraordinary with this novel, and for those who want a different voice, a different view of the aftermath of 9/11, The Reluctant Fundamentalist is well worth reading."
The Dallas Morning News
"It's a testament to author Mohsin Hamid's skill that Changez, despite this cold-blooded admission, remains a partly sympathetic character ... Everything we know comes to us by his voice, by turns emotionally raw, teasingly ambiguous, fawning and tinged with menace. We read on to see what he will reveal, increasingly certain that he will also conceal."
New York Review of Books
"Far from seeming bothered by the literariness of literature, Mohsin Hamid appears to savor it. Ambiguity starts out as the delicate organizing principle of his novel The Reluctant Fundamentalist. By the end of the book it has turned into the disturbing payoff."
Philip Pullman
"I read Mohsin Hamid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist with increasing admiration. It is beautifully written—what a joy it is to find such intelligent prose, such clarity of thought and exposition—and superbly constructed. The author has managed to tighten the screw of suspense almost without our being aware it is happening, and the result is a tale of enormous tension. I read a lot of thrillers—or rather I start reading a lot of thrillers, and put most of them down—but this is more exciting than any thriller I've read for a long time, as well as being a subtle and elegant analysis of the state of our world today. I was enormously impressed."
Kiran Desai
"A brilliant book. With spooky restraint and masterful control, Hamid unpicks the underpinnings of the most recent episode of distrust between East and West. But this book does not merely excel in capturing a developing bitterness. The narrative is balanced by a love as powerful as the sinister forces gathering, even when it recedes into a phantom of hope. It is this balance, and the constant negotiation of the political with the personal, that creates a nuanced and complex portrait of a reluctant fundamentalist."
From the Publisher
FILM RELEASE: Scheduled in North America for April 26th.
BIG CAST: Kate Hudson, Kiefer Sutherland, Liev Schreiber and Riz Ahmed are featured in this film, directed by Mira Nair (The Namesake).

"[An] elegant and chilling little novel... Hamid's novel... is distinguished by its portrayal of Changez's class aspirations and inner struggle. His resentment is at least in part self-loathing, directed at the American he'd been on his way to becoming... Aptly captures the ethos and hypocrises of the Ivy League meritocracy...  [With] an Arabian Nights-style urgency... The fundamentalist, and potential assassin, may be sitting on either side of the table." —The New York Times

"[A] taut and absolutely absorbing second novel... The Reluctant Fundamentalist is at least as much about the apparent unease felt by the listener — and reader — in hearing the story, as it is about the growing sense of cultural displacement described by Changez. Hamid... makes it impossible for the reader to know for certain what danger actually lurks or whether the reader's perceived sense of dread and underlying malice is nothing more than the product of an overactive, media-fed imagination." —Toronto Star

Mira Nair
"A searing and powerful account of a Pakistani in New York after 9/11."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781616848804
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 4/14/2008
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Mohsin Hamid

MOHSIN HAMID grew up in Lahore, Pakistan, and attended Princeton and Harvard. His first novel, Moth Smoke , was a Betty Trask Award winner, PEN/ Hemingway Award finalist, and New York Times Notable Book of the Year. His writing has also appeared in Time, The New York Times, and other publications. He lives in London.


Although he was born and raised in Lahore, Pakistan, award-winning novelist Mohsin Hamid spent part of his childhood in California while his father attended grad school at Stanford. Returning to the U.S. to complete his own education, Hamid graduated from Princeton University and Harvard Law School. He worked for a while as a management consultant in New York, then moved to London, where he continues to work and write.

Hamid made his literary debut in 2000 with Moth Smoke, a noir-inflected story about a young banker living on the fringes of Lahore society who plummets into an underworld of drugs and crime when he is fired from his job. Providing a rare glimpse into the complexities of the Pakistani class system, the book was called "a brisk, absorbing novel" (The New York Times Book Review), "a hip page-turner" (The Los Angeles Times), and "a first novel of remarkable wit, poise, profundity, and strangeness" (Esquire). Moth Smoke received a Betty Trask Award and was named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.

In 2007, Hamid added luster to his reputation with The Reluctant Fundamentalist. Written as a single, sustained monolog, this "elegant and chilling little novel" (The New York Times) is an electrifying psychological thriller that puts a dazzling new spin on culture, success, and loyalty in the post-9/11 world. The book became an international bestseller, as well as a Barnes & Noble Recommends selection; it was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, the Decibel Award, and the Commonwealth Writers Prize, and went on to win the South Bank Show Award for Literature.

There is no question that Hamid's unusual life experience, a cross-cultural stew of influences and perspectives, has informed his fiction. In addition to consulting and writing novels, he remains a much-in-demand freelance journalist, contributing articles and op-ed pieces -- often with a Pakistani slant -- to publications like Time magazine, The Guardian, The New York Times, The Independent, and The Washington Post. He holds dual citizenship in the U.K. and Pakistan.

Good To Know

Some fascinating outtakes from our interview with Hamid:

"When I was three years old I spoke no English, but fluent Urdu. We moved from Pakistan to America for a few years. I got lost in the backyard because all the townhouses were identical. I was knocking on the door of the townhouse next to ours by mistake, and some kids gathered around, making fun of me. For a month after that I didn't say a word. When I started speaking again, it was entirely, and fluently, in English."

"I once woke up in Pakistan and found a bullet in the bonnet of my car. Someone had fired it into the air, probably to celebrate a wedding, and it had hit on the way down. That incident set in motion an entire line of the plot of my first novel, Moth Smoke. Without it, the protagonist would not have been an orphan."

"My wife was born four houses from the house in which I had been born in Lahore, Pakistan. But we met for the first time by chance in a bar in London, thirty-two years later. It's a small world."

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    1. Hometown:
      London, U.K.
    1. Date of Birth:
    2. Place of Birth:
      Lahore, Pakistan
    1. Education:
      A.B., Princeton University, 1993; J.D., Harvard Law School, 1997
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

EXCUSE ME, SIR, but may I be of assistance? Ah, I see I have alarmed you. Do not be frightened by my beard: I am a lover of America. I noticed that you were looking for something; more than looking, in fact you seemed to be on a mission, and since I am both a native of this city and a speaker of your language, I thought I might offer you my services.
 How did I know you were American? No, not by the color of your skin; we have a range of complexions in this country, and yours occurs often among the people of our northwest frontier. Nor was it your dress that gave you away; a European tourist could as easily have purchased in Des Moines your suit, with its single vent, and your button-down shirt. True, your hair, short-cropped, and your expansive chest—the chest, I would say, of a man who bench-presses regularly, and maxes out well above two-twenty-five—are typical of a certain type of American; but then again, sportsmen and soldiers of all nationalities tend to look alike. Instead, it was your bearing that allowed me to identify you, and I do not mean that as an insult, for I see your face has hardened, but merely as an observation.
 Come, tell me, what were you looking for? Surely, at this time of day, only one thing could have brought you to the district of Old Anarkali—named, as you may be aware, after a courtesan immured for loving a prince—and that is the quest for the perfect cup of tea. Have I guessed correctly? Then allow me, sir, to suggest my favorite among these many establishments. Yes, this is the one. Its metal chairs are no better upholstered, its wooden tables are equally rough, and it is, like the others, open to the sky. But the quality of its tea, I assure you, is unparalleled.
 You prefer that seat, with your back so close to the wall? Very well, although you will benefit less from the intermittent breeze, which, when it does blow, makes these warm afternoons more pleasant. And will you not remove your jacket? So formal! Now that is not typical of Americans, at least not in my experience. And my experience is substantial: I spent four and a half years in your country. Where? I worked in New York, and before that attended college in New Jersey. Yes, you are right: it was Princeton! Quite a guess, I must say.
 What did I think of Princeton? Well, the answer to that question requires a story. When I first arrived, I looked around me at the Gothic buildings—younger, I later learned, than many of the mosques of this city, but made through acid treatment and ingenious stonemasonry to look older—and thought, This is a dream come true. Princeton inspired in me the feeling that my life was a film in which I was the star and everything was possible. I have access to this beautiful campus, I thought, to professors who are titans in their fields and fellow students who are philosopher-kings in the making.
 I was, I must admit, overly generous in my initial assumptions about the standard of the student body. They were almost all intelligent, and many were brilliant, but whereas I was one of only two Pakistanis in my entering class—two from a population of over a hundred million souls, mind you—the Americans faced much less daunting odds in the selection process. A thousand of your compatriots were enrolled, five hundred times as many, even though your country’s population was only twice that of mine. As a result, the non-Americans among us tended on average to do better than the Americans, and in my case I reached my senior year without having received a single B.
 Looking back now, I see the power of that system, pragmatic and effective, like so much else in America. We international students were sourced from around the globe, sifted not only by well-honed standardized tests but by painstakingly customized evaluations—interviews, essays, recommendations—until the best and the brightest of us had been identified. I myself had among the top exam results in Pakistan and was besides a soccer player good enough to compete on the varsity team, which I did until I damaged my knee in my sophomore year. Students like me were given visas and scholarships, complete financial aid, mind you, and invited into the ranks of the meritocracy. In return, we were expected to contribute our talents to your society, the society we were joining. And for the most part, we were happy to do so. I certainly was, at least at first.
 Every fall, Princeton raised her skirt for the corporate recruiters who came onto campus and—as you say in America—showed them some skin. The skin Princeton showed was good skin, of course—young, eloquent, and clever as can be—but even among all that skin, I knew in my senior year that I was something special. I was a perfect breast, if you will—tan, succulent, seemingly defiant of gravity—and I was confident of getting any job I wanted.
 Except one: Underwood Samson & Company. You have not heard of them? They were a valuation firm. They told their clients how much businesses were worth, and they did so, it was said, with a precision that was uncanny. They were small—a boutique, really, employing a bare minimum of people—and they paid well, offering the fresh graduate a base salary of over eighty thousand dollars. But more importantly, they gave one a robust set of skills and an exalted brand name, so exalted, in fact, that after two or three years there as an analyst, one was virtually guaranteed admission to Harvard Business School. Because of this, over a hundred members of the Princeton Class of 2001 sent their grades and résumés to Underwood Samson. Eight were selected—not for jobs, I should make clear, but for interviews—and one of them was me.
 You seem worried. Do not be; this burly fellow is merely our waiter, and there is no need to reach under your jacket, I assume to grasp your wallet, as we will pay him later, when we are done. Would you prefer regular tea, with milk and sugar, or green tea, or perhaps their more fragrant specialty, Kashmiri tea? Excellent choice. I will have the same, and perhaps a plate of jalebis as well. There. He has gone. I must admit, he is a rather intimidating chap. But irreproachably polite: you would have been surprised by the sweetness of his speech, if only you understood Urdu.
 Where were we? Ah yes, Underwood Samson. On the day of my interview, I was uncharacteristically nervous. They had sent a single interviewer, and he received us in a room at the Nassau Inn, an ordinary room, mind you, not a suite; they knew we were sufficiently impressed already. When my turn came, I entered and found a man physically not unlike yourself; he, too, had the look of a seasoned army officer. “Changez?” he said, and I nodded, for that is indeed my name. “Come on in and take a seat.” His name was Jim, he told me, and I had precisely fifty minutes to convince him to offer me a job. “Sell yourself,” he said. “What makes you special?” I began with my transcript, pointing out that I was on track to graduate summa cum laude, that I had, as I have mentioned, yet to receive a single B. “I’m sure you’re smart,” he said, “but none of the people I’m talking to today has any Bs.” This, for me, was an unsettling revelation. I told him that I was tenacious, that after injuring my knee I had made it through physiotherapy in half the time the doctors expected, and while I could no longer play varsity soccer, I could once again run a mile in less than six minutes. “That’s good,” he said, and for the first time it seemed to me I had made something of an impression on him, when he added, “but what else?”
 I fell silent. I am, as you can see, normally quite happy to chat, but in that moment I did not know what to say. I watched him watch me, trying to understand what he was looking for. He glanced down at my résumé, which was lying between us on the table, and then back up again. His eyes were cold, a pale blue, and judgmental, not in the way that word is normally used, but in the sense of being professionally appraising, like a jeweler’s when he inspects out of curiosity a diamond he intends neither to buy nor to sell. Finally, after some time had passed—it could not have been more than a minute, but it felt longer—he said, “Tell me something. Where are you from?”

Copyright © 2007 by Mohsin Hamid
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should be submitted online at contact or mailed to the following address: Permissions Department, Harcourt, Inc., 6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.

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Reading Group Guide

Questions for Discussion
  1. At the beginning of the book, Changez says that his companion's "bearing" gives him away as an American. What does Changez mean by this? What are his deeper implications?
  2. What do we learn about the American who sits across the table from Changez? How does Hamid convey this information? What do we never learn about the American? Consider how what we don't know about him influences our understanding of both Changez's monologue and the author's intent.
  3. Who is Jim, and why does he take such a liking to Changez? What do they have in common? Is his sympathy for Changez genuine?
  4. In Chapter 5, Changez is in a hotel in Manila, packing his suitcase and watching television, when he sees the towers of the World Trade Center collapse. "And then I smiled," he confesses. Explore this scene as the turning point of the novel — in terms of plot, character, scope, and tone.
  5. In Chile, Changez befriends the head of the publishing company his firm is there to value. Why are the two men drawn to each other? Why has Changez suddenly become so disinterested in his work? Who were the janissaries? Why does their history resonate so strongly with Changez?
  6. Discuss the two meanings of "fundamentalist" Hamid's title plays on — the first religious, the second suggested by Underwood Samson's business commitment to "Focus on the fundamentals." What do the different meanings suggest about the novel's themes?
  7. The Reluctant Fundamentalist turns out to be quite a page-turner — a political thriller that builds to a memorable conclusion. What exactly happens at the end of the novel? What clues or foreshadowings tipped you off as to how the book would end? Why does Changez tell this stranger his story?
  8. Since 9/11, there has been a growing trend in contemporary fiction to write about the tragedy of that day and its aftermath. Compare The Reluctant Fundamentalist with some other "9/11 novels" you have read. What sets it apart or makes it unique?
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 214 )
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  • Posted July 29, 2009

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    A Reluctant Counterpoint for Changez, July 29, 2009
    By Wordsworth "David" (Greenwich, CT) - See all my reviews
    I am now sipping a regular coffee at a Borders Cafe near Greenwich, CT after finishing your novel. Why is it that I am so disappointed in your literary work? As a Pakistani, you have come to know the best that America has to offer. Were you not admitted to the Ivy League at Princeton in place of a brilliant but perhaps more appreciative even a disadvantaged American citizen? Did you not then receive a high-paying job at a prestigious New York financial firm and send your earnings to your homeland? Did you not fall in love with a beautiful and intelligent, although psychologically scarred, Princeton woman from New York? Did you not enjoy prime business assignments and bonuses at the expense of your American counterparts, who were downsized during an economic downturn caused by 911 in New York? And yet you sympathize with the 911 attackers. Isn't this odd attitude of yours quite curious? It makes me think. You then become an anti-American advocate in your native land. I suppose, we should be grateful to you for your ubiquitous but most expressive, veiled ingratitude. The waitress comes with my modest bill. She smiles at me. But she is, no doubt, merely seeking a higher tip, wouldn't you agree? I will return your novel to Borders and seek my money back. I ask myself why I am so deeply offended by your novel. The greatest offense is perhaps that you have become so enriched by book sales in America of your very, very short novella. Another kindess from America plus such radiant critical reviews -- it boggles one's mind, does it not, at your opportunity and good fortune in America? I must deem your ingratitude an enigma but I see you shaking your head. Why do you seem so surprised by my natural counterpoint? Have you ever asked yourself what your life would be like if you had never left Lahore for America. Can you honestly deal with your fundamental, personal ingratitude as your homeland indifferently harbors our most mortal enemy in its mystic mountains -- a fervant fundamentalist who killed 3,000 innocent Americans working productively in the same business as you in New York, including many working parents who left widows and orphans behind in my home town only 35 miles away from Ground Zero? Did you not know that I volunteered to feed the firefighters and rescue squads there after the pernicious attack by radical fundamentalists on the Pile and then the Pit at the Twin Towers? Forgive me, but I am fundamentally offended by your creative work. Forgive me, yet again, if I urge my fellow American readers through an obnoxious narrative conceit, so like your own, to forsake your novel utterly and deeply urge them not to buy it.

    53 out of 61 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 11, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Be Reluctant to Read This Book

    This book is awful. It ends where it should begin and The author seems to be very anti-American. I will never read any book this author writes again.

    22 out of 27 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 8, 2007

    A reviewer

    The best thing about this book is the title. It's downhill after that. So cliché - brilliant but naive Pakistani gets Princeton education, great job, boodles of money only to discover that capitalism can be nasty. Then 9/11,the political chaos and America is fair game for the 'reluctant.' Hamid's single speaker technique is clever in advancing the idea of quieting the beast (America) - the one-sided conversation seems to be saying to the U.S. 'Shut up and listen.' Don't bother with this title.

    12 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 1, 2011

    Arrogant, Flip, and Prejudiced

    A more accurate title would be "The Unreluctant Bigot".

    9 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 2, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Through the eyes of a foreigner

    The writer uses the device of talking to someone to tell his story. The tension between leaving his country to study in America then obtain a high paying job right out of school is balanced against his emerging feeling of hatred towards America because the threat of invasion from India into his native Pakistan overwhelms him. The novel's setting is from before the Twin Towers attack through America's invasion of Afghanistan and India's threats against Pakistan. One feels sympathy for the young man torn between his new found income and his family's shrinking wealth.

    6 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 9, 2011

    Easy and good read, but hard to read well.

    From the many poor reviews, I am guessing this one was not for everyone. I'm not totally surprised why though.

    The writing is great. He paints a perfect picture of Pakistan, with little details of the heat (because it is hot) or the smell of jasmines. However, this great writing and story is missed, due to the controversial content.

    He is a Pakistani man who lives in America. Went to Yale and is 22 with a fantastic job that pays $80, 000 a year. He has never received less than an A at Yale. So he speaks with aggroance? This aggroance is well-deserved.

    The story progresses as he lives in New York post 9/11. What an idenitity crisis for any Middle Eastern in America after 9/11! Living in a land you love, but being called a terrorist constantly!

    The story was extremely exciting, because the author places you in the conversation. You are forced to be the constantly neverous American on the other line. And by the end pf the book, like this American who has listened to the narrator's story, you feel ill-eased. Should I agree with him? Or should I hate him?

    Many have choosen to hate this narrator. And that is okay. Because in as the story ends, the reader is not told how to feel, they are forced to choose. Meaning, (spoiler alert) the last lines of the book--"Now that I have trusted you with this story, I hope that piece of metal is a busniess card holder." We don't he pulling out a gun? Is he a friend or is he a foe? Are you a friend or are you a foe?

    5 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 6, 2007

    A reviewer

    This book came highly recommended however when I finally got around to reading it, I realized this book is ruined by a narrator who is not only foolish, but completely selfish. He is given a full ride to Princeton by Princeton. He is given a cushy job in which he earns tons of money and he falls in love with an American girl. Yet, America is evil. After an entire novel in which this man enjoys the fruits America has to offer, he turns around a complains about this country. On top of that, he foolishly falls for a girl who from the very beginning is emotionally unavailable AND does something so demeaning for her that you lose all respect for him. The ending is supposed to be shocking and just ends up disappointing and vague. I would not recommend this book to anyone!

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2012

    Disappointed at recommendation

    I do not understand how it is that Pakistanis claim to be invading conquerers and at te same time claim the Indus Valley civilization as their own. I doubt that in their constant insecure wish to be thought superior they even understood the intricate civilization they had destroyed. How do they count both the original civilization that they "conquered" as well as claim to be from rhe conquering race. So spare me when you say that the western world was barbaric when you had sewers.What is more when the author asserts frequently that they were once a rich nation, in this tirade against America, he fails to take into account the amount of freely flowing American support that went into building up the economy of his country. I doubt that they expected this in return. I read somewere rhat panislamism was the root of Pakistans behavior and this book made me feel that it was a fairly accurate sum up. What is more here is an educated man who could have sought to take on the problems in his own country but instead he chooses to put on his blinkers and decry how he has been wronged.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 16, 2010

    Interesting, hard to put down.

    This book was not exactly what I expected. As the ending began to take shape, I found myself able to identify less and less with the storyteller. Maybe because of the culture difference, but it seemed the young man telling the story was really biting the generous hand that was feeding him. I had a hard time figureing out what his romance had to do with the rest of the story. I didn't seem to have much to do with anything else. I found myself getting angry with alot of what sounded like assumptions on the narrator's part, like blaming the United States for Pakistan's trouble with India. I wanted to ask about his country's part in hiding Osama Bin Laudin and his being "pleased" at hearing about the attack on our country. I have not stopped thinking about this book since i finished it a couple of days ago. Of course, that very well might have been the author's intention. I read the book hoping to understand the mindset of someone who goes to these extremes in the name of patriotism, perhaps it is beyond my understanding. I did read this book in record time, I found it very interesting even if I didn't catch all of what the author was trying to convey. I would recommend it to anyone interested in the countries we are involved with and how the people feel about our involvment.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 18, 2008

    What a disappointment!

    I have loved the BN picks. This one however really missed the mark. It went...nowhere! The end was the worst of any book I have ever read.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 29, 2013


    Very anti american and disgusting book.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 3, 2012

    Ok nothing what i found was bad but needs some action


    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 1, 2009

    A Book you live

    The style and plot are so unique, so real, that you feel you are there; you are the character at the other end of the conversation.
    The history and events wrapped around this story are so real that you feel it is happening now and you are a part of it.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 8, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    An Interesting Point of View

    This book is written so that the reader feels the author is engaged in a private conversation with him or her. The author tells you on a story of a Pakistani man's love, money and politics in New York pre and post 9/11. The tension builds so that throughout the entire novel the reader is uncertain as to his or her relationship with the author and its outcome.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2008

    brilliant writing same old message

    This author is talented. The story is captivating. The same tired lefty message, 'blame America for all the ills of the world',is disappointing.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 24, 2014


    Although there are numerous bad reviews on here I ask that you not be too deterred. This book has some wonderfully written descriptions, a quite intersting way of presenting itself, and a very thorough and engaging story. What I see to be a pretty common reason for poor reviews is that many people do not agree with the narrator/main character. But one does not have to fully agree with a character in order to appreciate their story. This book will put you in a precarious situation where you will have to think for yourself (oh my!) and make decisions about how far you agree and/or disagree with the narrator as well as his American companion. You will be given a rare view into the ideas, upbringings and insights of a terrorist, whom after finishing this book you might not even be sure that's what he actually his. This story also ends on a large cliff hanger where you are left quite uneasy and unsure about what might have actually happened.
    I would personally recommend this book if you are capable of being openminded. This does not mean you have to agree with the narrator as I myself did not fully agree with him, but you will atleast have to see his point of view and learn to understand the events that can lead people down a certain road.
    I would would also like to add a small warning. This book contains a few, almost disturbingly graphic sex scenes so I would not hand this book to a child.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2014

    Must read!

    Beautiful and tragic! A novel that explores the experience of a person who bridges two worlds during a period of American history where to do this, was looked at with suspicion.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 12, 2014

    A Must Read

    Superbly written as a narrative. The book is gripping and moving at the same time. Had a long after-effect on me.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 15, 2013

    Not as interesting as I thought it would be

    Not as interesting as I thought it would be

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 29, 2013

    Hated it

    Hated it....very anti american,please save your money and buy something else, not worth reading...

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