The Kite Runner
by Khaled HosseiniSummary: A novel set mostly in Afghanistan. The introverted and insecure afghan narrator, Amir, grows up in Afghanistan in the closing years of the monarchy and the first years of the short-lived republic. His best and most faithful friend, Hassan, is the son of a servant. Amir feels he betrays Hassan by not coming to his aid when Hassan is set on by bullies and furthermore forces Hassan and his father Ali to leave his father´s service. Amir´s relatively privileged life in Kabul comes to an end when the communist regime comes to power and his extrovert father, Baba emigrates with him to the U.S. There Amir meets his future afghan wife and marries her. Amir´s father dies in the U.S. and Amir receives a letter from his father´s most trusted business partner and, for a time, Amir´s surrogate father, which makes Amir return, alone, to a Taliban-dominated Afghanistan in search of the truth about himself and his family, and finally, a sort of redemption.
Source: I borrowed a copy of this book through the Kindle Library Lending system at my local library.
I checked this book out from the library to read for a book club and I wasn’t sure if it was really my kind of book. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it. It was a wonderfully written story about Amir with a lot of lessons on life and guilt and what it means to be a good person. The most interesting aspect for me was reading about life in Afghanistan because I knew it was a fairly accurate representation intertwined with a fictional story.
Without giving away anything more than the synopsis already does, The Kite Runner is a story about Amir from childhood to middle age and it also follows the timeline of Afghanistan from a republic to what it is today. Amir is a complex character because to some degree, he was wonderful, but he was also terrible and shallow and cowardly and full of guilt and struggled with whether he was a good person. In some ways, the story of Amir reminded me of Atonement by Ian McEwan because it shows what can happen when things get out of control and someone doesn’t speak up and how actions and decisions we make can impact the future. It’s a different story by a long shot, but shares many similar themes.
The Kite Runner spoke to me on two levels. It’s a wonderful story about character, what it means to be human, how to live with decisions we make, overcoming guilt, forgiveness, and things of that nature. Amir and the people around him are wonderfully flawed characters, full of hypocrisy and tragedy trying to make a place in the world. I could appreciate this aspect of the story because it’s real. Amir is human and not really likeable at all. After all, people are terrible and imperfect. Hearing his story as he narrated was a conflict in itself because I wanted to smack him a few times for not doing the right thing, but I also sort of understood him and why he did the thing he did.
The Kite Runner was fantastic in terms of telling the story of Afghanistan. A movie review from Express Milwaukee says,
“The Kite Runner's portrayal of the country before the Soviet invasion is accurate; its depiction of life within an exiled ethnic community in America is nuanced and true. It also nails the casual and not-so-casual cruelty of childhood. The Kite Runner offers a realistically bleak vision of Afghanistan under the Taliban as a place where civilization was encouraged to fall into ruin. The zealous gunmen imprisoned women in burkhas, imposed a narrow interpretation of Islam on the Muslim population and tried to outlaw the human spirit. They even banned kite flying.”This aspect of the story was fascinating for me. Because the fictional book is accurate in terms of the country, I felt like I learned a lot about a life I wouldn’t otherwise know anything about. I really like when fiction can take me places and teach me things and The Kite Runner certainly does that. I feel like for this reason alone, it’s worth the read, especially here in America, where most of our judgment and understanding comes from how the country is now rather than what the people were like before it got so bad. I think it is one of those books that tries to reach out and bridge the gap and tell us that in the end, we are all the same and we are all human and I can respect that.
Despite the fact that this book resonated with me, I couldn’t rate it a full 5 stars because there were some things I didn’t like about it.
I felt like the book could be divided into three parts: childhood in Afghanistan, life in America, and the trip back to Afghanistan. The book isn’t divided like this at all. There’s nothing wrong with this, but each part has lulls. For example, I flew through the beginning, totally interested in the story. And then, part 1 essentially ended and I’m thrown into the beginning of part 2, which is slow to get going. Like reading multiple short stories, it took me awhile to figure out where it was going and get comfortable with the story again. And all of this took place without any sort of division in the text. It’s just like one minute you’re invested in these characters and events and the next, the author is bombarding you with information you don’t care about yet. All the “sections” of the book are wonderful and each of the different parts of Amir’s life are crucial to the overall story and enjoyable to read. I’m glad I got through the lulls of the book, but I feel like these lulls could prevent a person from finishing the book. I kept looking at the book and thinking, “How on earth am I not even halfway? What else could happen? Is all of that not the main point of the story?” And then I’d get into the next part and have that section sort of end and think the same thing.
Some parts of the book, mostly in the “third section” were over the top and unbelievable. There were a handful of moments that sort of brought the story around full circle, but it was just kind of ridiculous and unnecessary. They were helpful in providing symbolism and irony and parallelism, but the book could have done without them and it was just too much. I wish I could be more specific, but I think specifics would spoil the book. The Kite Runner is fiction, but reads very much like a memoir for most of it and the “convenient moments” at the end didn’t really fit with the rest of the book and I don’t feel like they were necessary to convey Amir overcoming his guilt and becoming a better person.
Overall, I definitely recommend The Kite Runner. It’s a wonderful book and I’m really glad I read it. There are dark and gruesome moments in the book and scenes that might bother some people, but it’s a great read and I found it to be a thought provoking novel.
This book completes the category Made Into A Movie for the 2013 Eclectic Reader Challenge hosted by Book'd Out
Made into a movie
Published in 2013