I added Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner to my books to read list a few years ago. I remember that it received lots of attention when it hit the bookshelves in 2003. I knew it was popular and I wanted to find out why. I didn’t even realize it was a novel until I received my copy (the 10th anniversary edition) this past Christmas.
“I became what I am today at the age of twelve, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975.”The Kite Runner (Riverhead Books 2013)
The Kite Runner untangles the contrasting idyllic childhood, chaotic teenage years, and redemptive adulthood of protagonist Amir. Told from a collection of his memories, the novel gives snapshots of life in Afghanistan in the 1970s. Growing up without a mother, Amir idolizes his successful, but unapproachable Baba (father). However, he finds solace and warmth in the kinship of his servant, Hassan, an ethnic minority Hazara. Despite Hassan’s undying loyalty and submissive nature, Amir fails to return the kindness and knowingly allows his servant to be brutally abused. The boys never discuss the incident, but the collective guilt and shame draws a line in the sand between the boys that is never erased.
Fleeing from political upheaval in his home country, Amir carries his broken heart of betrayal with him to try to start fresh in America with his Baba. While their father-son relationship finally heals and blossoms in a new setting, Amir fails to bury his painful memories of Afghanistan in the past. However, when one of Baba’s old friends beckons him to return to Afghanistan, old wounds resurface, and Amir must boldly embrace the opportunity to reclaim his honor, absolve his conscience, and restore kinship with some of the people he loved the most.
“Then I turned and ran. It was only a smile, nothing more. It didn’t make everything all right. It didn’t make anything all right. Only a smile. A tiny thing … But I’ll take it.”The Kite Runner
What I loved about this book is how the plot centered around Afghanistan and its beautifully unique culture. Although Hosseini and Amir both immigrated to the U.S., the emphasis is never on America, and particularly never on American/Afghanistan relations. The focus of the book remains focused on family relationships and redemptions, not on culture clashes or political pitfalls. Given when it was written, the author could have shifted the storyline to depict his home country in a different light, but the purpose of the book was never to convince the reader of purity and perfection. Rather, The Kite Runner challenges its audience to consider how we treat people, and the toll that is taken when we allow envy, selfish ambition, and cowardice to rule our lives. And, while the novel is devoid of almost any warm and fuzzy feelings, Hosseini reminds us that no matter how many years and miles separate us from bad decisions, we can always pursue a journey of forgiveness.
You may like this book if you also like: Afghan culture, fatherhood, best friends, pomegranates, flying kites, stories of grace.