The Reluctant Fundamentalist joins the list of what has already proved to be a rather fertile genre that should prove to become only more and more fertile as time moves on and sensitivities become less delicate. The central event of the story are the attacks of September 11, 2001 although it would not be accurate to suggest that the novel is about 9/11. The story begins prior to that event and continues on afterward. What is really at the heart of The Reluctant Fundamentalist is the oft-stated assertion that those attacked changed the world forever. They did, but not in the same way for everybody.
This novel—which takes the radical form of an extended first person monologue in which everything we learn is really just one half of a conversation between two people where the other never speaks—explores a niche within that assertion that most Americans probably never think much about. The world changed forever for anyone who looks even remotely Middle Eastern on September 12, 2001 and the narrator, Changez, reveals the extent to which life before the planes came crashing down will forever be different for billions of people who had absolutely nothing to do with those tragedies. Along the way, the readers is offered a glimpse of recent Pakistani history through the socio-political lens provided by the author, but it is the way that being a person of a particular physicality has been impacted by events and opinions well beyond their control that is the real meat and potatoes of the novel.
The Reluctant Fundamentalist was chosen by the The Guardian as one of the novels that defined the decade of 9/11 and in that respect it can be viewed as almost a companion piece to a song that defined the same period: “Suspicious Eyes” by the British rock band The Rakes. Shortlisted for the prestigious Booker Prize, the novel also inspired a well-received film adaptation in 2012.