The Reluctant Fundamentalist
First sentence: Excuse me, sir, but may I be of assistance?
Reflections: The narrator, a young, nameless Pakistani man, sits down to dinner with a visiting American stranger. During the meal, the young man tells his story: how he came to the United States as a university student, obtained a job with a selective financial services firm, and fell in love with a beautiful and troubled American woman. And how, after September 11, 2001, he became increasingly disillusioned and angry with American government and society, and returned home to Pakistan. This personal narrative is periodically interrupted by observations on the immediate surroundings: beautiful young women in the cafe, the burly waiter, the food, and the American visitor's nervous behavior.
The story itself is interesting in its own right, but early on I was struck by a more basic question: why are these two men having dinner together in the first place? Why is the American so nervous? The tension and suspense continued to mount as the narrative progressed and it appeared a kind of "cat and mouse game" was underway. But which man was the predator, and which one the prey? These questions are left open to speculation.
However, these plot details are not the real point of this novel. The Reluctant Fundamentalist provides a much more powerful lesson to Americans in its brutal portrayal of how our country is viewed in the Middle East, and how citizens of these nations can come to espouse these views and, ultimately, act on their anger. ( )