Having just finished reading The Kite Runner, all I can say is, "amazing." At times, it can be extremely haunting and excruciating, but in the end, I could not help but be moved by this story of love and redemption. Although it vividly weaves in stories about Afghanistan and the Taliban, it was the heart wrenching story regarding Amir, Baba, and their personal demons and of Amir's redemption that engaged me in the end.
"I became what I am today at the age of twelve, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975," Khaled Hosseini's narrator reflects in the opening paragraph of The Kite Runner. "I remember the precise moment, crouching behind a crumbling mud wall, peeking into the alley near the frozen creek. That was a long time ago, but it's wrong what they say about the past, I've learned, about how you can bury it. Because the past claws its way out. Looking back now, I realize I have been peeking into that deserted alley for the last twenty-six years."
Hosseini is an Afghan-American novelist and physician, who moved to the United States in 1980. This is not his memoir. Hosseini's debut novel tells the compelling (though at times melodramatic) story of Amir, an Afghan man now living in Fremont, California, remembering his childhood in Kabul in the 1970s, who is haunted by his childhood betrayal of his friend Hassan, the son of his father's Hazara servant.
Amir inherited a love for literature from his mother, who died while giving birth to him. As a boy, he would read to Hassan under a pomegranate tree. This concerned his father Baba, who prefered soccer to books. One day while the two boys are kite running, Hassan is brutally raped and beaten by a sociopathic bully (Assef) while Amir hides and watches, too paralyzed with fear to help his friend. Amir remains silent for 26 years, during which time he attempts to atone for by his cowardice and disloyalty.
His story is set against a backdrop of tumultuous events, from pre-civil war Afghanistan, to the fall of the monarchy in Afghanistan through the Soviet invasion, to the mass exodus of refugees to Pakistan and the United States, and the Taliban regime. Rather than his simply drawn characters, it is Hosseini's depiction of Afghanistan life (otherwise known to me only through the evening news, besides what Linda told while Phil was stationed there and, sadly, knowing a young man in the US Army from Kalamazoo who was killed last week in Afghanistan in a road side bomb) that gives this novel its greatest strength.
Years later, after his father Baba dies of lung cancer, and after he marries Soraya Taheri, Amir becomes a successful novelist. He returns to Kabul, where he learns Hassan and his wife were killed by the Taliban, that Hassan was actually his illegitimate half-brother, and that Hassan's son (Sohrab) has been sold as a sex slave to a Taliban official, who is none other than Assef. Assef brutally beats Amir and seriously injures him, but Amir is saved by Sohrab. Sohrab and Amir escape, and Amir attempts to adopt Sohrab so that he may take the emotionally damaged boy home with him to the United States.
When the two then bond through running kites together, The Kite Runner becomes a deeply moving story not only of male relationships, but of personal redemption from childhood guilt.
This is a wonderful book! I've read many novels and this is one of the best, if not the best. It would be impossible to read this book and not be touched by and love the characters. When I finished this book I felt as though I had lost a friend. I know I will never forget this story. I cannot recommend it highly enough.