THE RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST by Mohsin Hamid (Bond Street/Doubleday), 183 pages, $29.95 cloth. Rating: NNNN
Expect to see all kinds of books that aim to elucidate the slow radicalization of Muslims living in America.
Already we've seen John Updike's Terrorist, a god-awful piece of amateur psychology courtesy of one of America's iconic white guys. So it's a pleasure to read Booker-shortlisted The Reluctant Fundamentalist, a wholly authentic and deft portrait of the changing consciousness of Changez, a Pakistani immigrant who finds success in the U.S., only to be transformed in the aftermath of 9/11.
What makes the novel so tense is its setting. Changez sits in a café in Lahore telling his story to... we're not exactly sure. We do know that his companion keeps looking around furtively and has a suspicious bulge under his armpit.
As they drink and dine, Changez describes his mercurial rise through the ranks of Underwood Samson, a firm that evaluates companies being eyed for mergers.
When the Twin Towers topple, he wonders why he's taking a secret pleasure in the event, and when he sees his own complicity in rapacious corporate America's takeovers - in the Philippines and Chile - he decides to change his life.
The transformation is full of nuance - no sudden revelations here. A brilliant, ambitious young man of colour turns from Princeton whiz kid totally focused on his career into a person of conscience finding his place in the world.
And Hamid definitely knows how to ratchet up the tension.
Hamid reads Tuesday (October 23), 8 pm, and joins a round table October 27, 2 pm, both at the Lakeside Terrace.