Reactions to ‘In the Dream House’ and ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’

Reactions to these two books

Last week I shared my thoughts on two books I borrowed from my sister’s collection: On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan and Three Women by Lisa Taddeo, both of which I loved for different reasons. I’ve continued my reading kick by finishing two other books (both from Megan for obvious reasons); the first being In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado and the second, The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid. I have so many reactions to these accounts because I truly loved the former, but I felt mixed reactions to the latter.

In the Dream House is Carmen Maria Machado’s memoir, but it’s written in a wildly unique way unlike that of most autobiographies. The piece accounts her physically and psychologically abusive relationship to a woman she once loved and built a life with. I like how Bookshop (an online bookstore that financially supports independent bookstores!) describes the structure of the book, saying, “Each chapter is driven by its own narrative trope—the haunted house, erotica, the bildungsroman—through which Machado holds the events up to the light and examines them from different angles.” These immersive and compelling sections made the book one of my quickest reads yet. Machado drew me in through the sweet early parts of the relationship and slowly tore down the dreamy romance with each act of abuse she suffered through. The memoir isn’t a light read, but it’s incredibly important to listen and reckon with stories that aren’t often told, especially when it comes to domestic abuse. I truly loved the writing and would give it 5/5 stars!!

The second book I read and have reactions to is The Reluctant Fundamentalist—a young Pakistani man named Changez’s account of his life in America told to an American traveler while in Lahore. Changez was at the top of his class at Princeton, met and fell in love with a girl named Erica, and landed a job at one of the most exclusive valuation firms in New York City. But after 9/11 and Erica’s swift emotional decline, Changez must evaluate his life and what he’s become. The book is another short read, but it feels lengthy due to Changez being the main narrator (aside from his interactions with Erica and his supervisor) and its slightly sluggish pace. I found myself yearning only for the parts where Changez and Erica’s relationship was featured and could have done with fewer chapters about the valuation firm (because who wants to read about capitalism, amirite). I liked how the ending was left up to the reader’s interpretation, but I don’t think I would read the book again if given the opportunity. I would give it 3/5 stars.

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