Friday, November 9, 2007

The Kite Runner — Khaled Hosseini

In an age when war is raging in the Middle East, and our concept of Afghanistan consists mainly of terrorism, oppressed women, religious radicals, and oh, did I mention terrorism??, I can't imagine anything this country needs more than a book that transports its readers to a world we have been forced to fear and gain an entirely new perspective.

The Kite Runner is that book — for more reasons than its unique story using Kabul as a backdrop. The struggles faced in this story of friendship, fatherhood, guilt and atonement are universal, in the extremist sense of the word, and the ability to relate to it is not at all hindered by its placement in a world most of us will never, luckily, have to live in.

Our narrator, like most great narrators in literature, is human — imperfect, troubled and, at times, detestable. Amir, who narrates as an older man, telling the story of his youth in Kabul with his father, Baba, his best friend/servant, Hassan, and Hassan's father, Ali. Amir is an average boy, desperate for his father's love, and jealous over Baba's distribution of love between he and Hassan.

Hassan, without a single shred of doubt in my body and soul, is the kindest, most loyal, honest and brave character I have ever read or could ever hope to read in my lifetime. Reading about his "unrequited loyalty" to Amir will bring tears to your eyes, and will not cease as you read how Amir takes advantage of his best friend's love.

The story deals, early on, with the boys' relationship that is strained by their different Muslim heritages: Amir is Pashtun; Hassan is Hazara. The culture does not consider them equals... and neither does Amir. As Kabul and Afghanistan crumbles around them, so does Amir's friendship with the ever-loyal Hassan, and after many heart-wrenching betrayals, the two are separated. Amir and his father retreat to Fremont, California as war rages for over twenty years in their homeland. It is not until just before the September 11th attacks that Amir is called back to Kabul for one final test of his courage, and one final chance to atone for his sins.

The story is extensive, and come a few events near the end, it can become a bit predictable and a little too convenient. But it works. As a dramatic story, having the loose ends tied up, everything works. A dreadfully sad, yet hopeful story, The Kite Runner is the perfect blend of brilliant writing and mainstream appeal.

Do not miss out on reading this novel. Read it before the film comes out. Because the film is going to be good. But nothing can touch the endearment of this book.


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