cover image The Reluctant Fundamentalist

The Reluctant Fundamentalist

Mohsin Hamid, .\t\t . Harcourt, $22 (184pp) ISBN 978-0-15-101304-3

Hamid's second book (after Moth \t\t Smoke) is an intelligent and absorbing 9/11 novel, written from the \t\t perspective of Changez, a young Pakistani whose sympathies, despite his fervid \t\t immigrant embrace of America, lie with the attackers. The book unfolds as a \t\t monologue that Changez delivers to a mysterious American operative over dinner \t\t at a Lahore, Pakistan, cafe. Pre-9/11, Princeton graduate Changez is on top of \t\t the world: recruited by an elite New York financial company, the 22-year-old \t\t quickly earns accolades from his hard-charging supervisor, plunges into \t\t Manhattan's hip social whirl and becomes infatuated with Erica, a fellow \t\t Princeton graduate pining for her dead boyfriend. But after the towers fall, \t\t Changez is subject to intensified scrutiny and physical threats, and his \t\t co-workers become markedly less affable as his beard grows in ("a form of \t\t protest," he says). Erica is committed to a mental institution, and Changez, \t\t upset by his adopted country's "growing and self-righteous rage," slacks off at \t\t work and is fired. Despite his off-putting commentary, the damaged Changez \t\t comes off as honest and thoughtful, and his creator handles him with a \t\t sympathetic grace. (Apr.)