Khaled Housseini’s The Kite Runner is the story of Amir, a wealthy and privileged boy growing up in 1970s Afghanistan. His closest friend is the son of his father’s servant, Hassan. The two love flying kites and reading stories (really, Amir reads them to Hassan as the latter is illiterate). Hassan practically worships Amir but Amir is always conscious of their class differences and is also jealous of his father, Baba’s seeming preference for Hassan and longs to form a closer connection with Baba. The two are torn apart after Amir fails to help Hassan at a critical moment. Amir and Baba flee Afghanistan for America after the Soviet invasion and Amir tries to move on with his life and forget the past and all the guilt that comes with it. Everything changes, however, when he gets a call from his father’s old friend, telling him to come back, that “there is a way to be good again.”
My grandmother gave me this book five years ago after winning it in some sort of raffle. Her English isn’t the best and she knows I love reading so she probably figured I would eat it up right away. Well, I didn’t. I waited five years. I’m not sure why exactly, because I was well aware of the book’s critical acclaim. Maybe I thought it would be too depressing. I do tend to cry easily. Anyway, five years go by and I finally read the book and I didn’t let myself down. I cried, quite a few times actually. Yet I would most certainly not call The Kite Runner depressing. It is deeply moving and full of heart-breaking moments, yet its message is in the end uplifting. While you can never take back the past, you can still make a difference in the present.
The first section of the book, Amir and Hassan’s childhood in Afghanistan, is the most realistic to me. It reads almost like a real memoir, everything is so true to life. The second part, in America, is much in the same vein. It gets a bit melodramatic in the last third, however, after Amir’s return to Afghanistan. Some of the symbolism may seem a bit too obvious and one major twist feels almost out of a soap opera. I hate soap operas. Yet I was okay with this reveal, because it made everything fall into place. Finally, Baba’s past behavior and in turn, Amir’s made so much sense. It should have been obvious to me and I’m sure many readers guessed the secret. But I won’t reveal anything!
Many times I found myself wanting to smack young Amir for his selfish actions and yet at the same time I understood them and knew he was redeemable. He was never able to run from his sins and his guilt until he atoned for it. I enjoyed learning about Afghan culture and most of all, I loved reading about kite running! Forget the boring old kite flying I tried (and failed at!) as a kid, these kids attack each others’ kites and cut them away from their owners’ grasp in mid-flight. Then they chase after the kites and win them as their own (the “running” part). I had never heard of such a game before and found it really interesting.
The book is not perfect, I must admit. Aside from the borderline melodrama near the end, I thought Housseini portrayed the Hazaras (the underprivileged race Hassan and his father, Ali, belong to) as too perfect. The upper-class Pashtuns like Amir and Baba are flawed and the “bad” character, Assef, is fully evil, but the servants Ali and Hassan are pure nearing the point of sainthood. Admittedly, there are not many Hazara characters in the novel, and Assef is half German, so I suppose this isn’t quite a fair judgment to make.
I recommend everyone read The Kite Runner! Even if you don’t love it like I did, it’s still a very easy read and I think everyone should at least give it a chance. Don’t wait five years like I did!
My Rating: 8/10