In The Reluctant Fundamentalist, what does Changez mean when he describes "the crack inside her" as having "evoked in me an almost familial tenderness?"

Expert Answers
Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When he describes the picnic he shared with Erica at Central Park, in which the topic of Erica's bout with depression was revealed, they both walk out of the park, arm in arm.  This triggers Changez's reflection about Erica as someone who appears one way on the outside, but is actually quite another underneath the facade.  On the surface, Erica appears as if she lacks nothing.  Yet, Changez realizes that beneath this, Erica possesses a hollowness that cannot be overcome.  This particular condition of sadness is one with which that Changez is struck.  The idea of a "familial tenderness" is how Changez feels the need and compulsion to care for and almost "take care" of Erica.  He recognizes a certain feeling inside her that Erica needs nurturing and a sense of being tended to, like one would care for a wounded family member.  The idea of "familial tenderness" is significant because Changez's characterization will be one in which there is not going to be much in way of tenderness, so to see it at this moment is relevant to the overall arc of Changez's development in the course of the novel.