I picked this book after listening to the podcast on World Book Club where Mohsin Hamid answers readers’ questions with regards to the story.
The Reluctant Fundamentalist tells about the story of Changez, a Pakistani man with a degree from Princeton and now works at a valuation firm for a decent salary. He falls in love with Erica, a beautiful American lady who is still in love with her past lover. Things took a turn when the 9/11 incident happened; Changez’ position in his workplace, his relationship with Erica, and his straddling identity, were indelibly threatened. He now faces a dilemma – forced to face his morals and question his identity in deciding whether he should stay in his adopted country and be haunted by echoes of his family struggles back home, or leave what he had built entirely. The story’s told in a monologue – the whole event happens over a meal in a cafe in Lahore, narrated by a unknown stranger.
Because I have listened to the discussions on WBC, I couldn’t help but think of Erica as a metaphor for America, to be honest. There were several traits that parallel, and I was annoyed at myself for having a hard time to look past that and read the characters objectively. Nevertheless, it’s an engaging story that makes you think about the prejudices that still exist post 9/11 and the inner turmoil most immigrants have to battle. Worth a read.