February 17, 2013

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

There has been a lot of hype about this book.  And a lot of that is well deserved.  It is well written, explores some deep themes in a troubled setting, and has imperfect but redeemable characters.

Amir has always wanted his father's approval, but it isn't easy for him to get.  Rather, it seems that the servant boy he has grown up with, Hassan, gets the approval more.  So even though they are somewhat friends, Amir has a jealousy of Hassan that he can't quite get rid of.  So when something terrible happens, Amir just stands to the side, and carries that guilt for the rest of his life.  And even as time passes, Amir stays with this cowardice until he is given a chance and a decision to change a few things.

Amir is an imperfect character.  A self-described coward he is not near as loyal as Hassan.  And he can be a bit of a bully too, as cowards often are.  But he wants to be a better person, and he does grow throughout the book.  Hassan, on the other hand, is his polar opposite.  He's actually almost too perfect and devoted and I find his character a little unbelievable at times.  But we're also seeing things from Amir's point of view, so that could skew Hassan's character a little bit too.  Baba, the father of Amire, is tough but unyielding.  And while I agree that he could have been a little more patient with Amir, I think overall he was a good guy.  There are several other characters in this book as well, but they are side characters that support Amir's story and help him through his travails.

The plot was a good one.  A deep dark secret that haunts Amir and follows him through life.  But I had a big problem with the ending.  I don't want to say too much but Amir meets someone from his past and gets to change things a little, but the way he meets this person is just completely unbelievable to me.  Of all the chances it would be the same person, it just doesn't work.  And in fact, from that part of the book on it just didn't ring as authentic and even felt a little rushed.  But still, the story was good and presented a good look at the culture of Afghanistan before the Taliban took over.  And the information about Kites, I'd never really thought about kite fighting until this book, but it seems an interesting hobby.

There are some very hard topics in this book though.  Violence, rape, combined with some evil people, it is described in a good amount of detail.  And there are some things about culture as well that can be hard to accept (like the joke about beating women).  This book has a little bit of hope in it, but largely it is a melancholy look at the mistakes we make in life and a culture that has had more than its fair share of tragedy.

I would definitely read more by this author.  He has a nice writing style that explains everything fully while not getting bogged down in too much detail.  And his characters are people you can care about. 

The Kite Runner
Copyright 2003
371 pages

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