Before I wrote this review, I decided to checkout Amazon’s reviews to see if anybody had the nerve to rate this book poorly. I was shocked to find out that quite a few people did! Before reading this book, I’d told myself that this would be the final non-black novel that I read for sometime. Judging by how much I enjoyed this novel, I would like to retract that belief. This whole idea concerning catching up and re-reading classics, best-sellers, and notable African-American novels has enabled me to enjoy quite a few literary gems. The only problem with this review is, I really liked the book. When I don’t like a book, I can go on and on. When I like a book…I’m at a lost for words. If you haven’t read this novel, beware of the upcoming spoilers below.
Khaled Hosseini’s Bio:Khaled Hosseini was born in Kabul, Afghanistan in 1965. He is the oldest of five children. and his mother was a teacher of Farsi and History at a large girls high school in Kabul. In 1976, Khaled’s family was relocated to Paris, France, where his father was assigned a diplomatic post in the Afghan embassy. The assignment would return the Hosseini family in 1980, but by then Afghanistan had already witnessed a bloody communist coup and the Soviet invasion. Khaled’s family, instead, asked for and was granted political asylum in the U.S. He moved to San Jose, CA, with his family in 1980. He attended Santa Clara University and graduated from UC San Diego School of Medicine. He has been in practice as an internist since 1996. He is married to Roya, has two children (a boy and a girl, Haris and Farah). The Kite Runner is his first novel.
Hosseini’s Tips for Writers: I would give them the oldest advice in the craft: Read and write. Read a lot. Read new authors and established ones, read people whose work is in the same vein as yours and those whose genre is totally different. You’ve heard of chain-smokers. Writers, especially beginners, need to be chain-readers. And lastly, write every day. Write about things that get under your skin and keep you up at night.
Book: The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Publisher: Riverhead Books published 2003
Opening Lines: I became what I am today at the age of twelve, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975. 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.
Publisher’s Description: The Kite Runner is the unforgettable, beautifully told story of the friendship between two boys growing up in Kabul. Raised in the same household and sharing the same wet nurse, Amir and Hassan nonetheless grow up in different worlds: Amir is the son of a prominent and wealthy man, while Hassan, the son of Amir’s father’s servant, is a Hazara, member of a shunned ethnic minority. Their intertwined lives, and their fates, reflect the eventual tragedy of the world around them. When the Soviets invade and Amir and his father flee the country for a new life in California, Amir thinks that he has escaped his past. And yet he cannot leave the memory of Hassan behind him.The Kite Runner is a novel about friendship, betrayal, and the price of loyalty. It is about the bonds between fathers and sons, and the power of their lies. Written against a history that has not been told in fiction before, The Kite Runner describes the rich culture and beauty of a land in the process of being destroyed. But with the devastation, Khaled Hosseini also gives us hope: through the novel’s faith in the power of reading and storytelling, and in the possibilities he shows for redemption.
Reason book was selected: I’ve seen quite a few people reading this book, not to mention my boyfriend, who recommended it highly. I guess I wanted to see what the hype was all about.
Cover art: One thing that remains consistent with all of the covers is the kite. The only one that’s different is the one that features the boy peeking around a building. This cover still relates to a major event in the novel, but the kite runner scene is what actually leads up to that scene.
The Good: Honestly, I had low expectations for this book. After reading another best-seller, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, I was starting to believe that maybe I just don’t like the same sorts of books that everybody else likes. Then going in knowing that this book takes place in Afghanistan, I just didn’t think the storyline would be that interesting. I was waiting for the characters to join the Taliban or be forced to take part in some terrorist activities. I’m ashamed of myself for even admitting that. Surprisingly, this book was quite the enjoyable read. The characters were well-developed and every minor detail and character had significance in the development of the novel’s plot.
I liked the pace of the novel and I will admit that there were very few dry/slow moments.Amir and Hassan grew up together during the first half of their youth as the closest of friends, but only in private. Since Hassan is a member of the Hazar ethnic minority and the son of Amir’s house servant, it is clear why he is uneducated and constantly picked on by other children. Amir, a lover of books and a developing writer himself enjoys the moments away with Hassan. During these times they share a book or play their usual games. Unfortunately, Amir notices early on that his father is not pleased with his devotion to books or his sensitive ways. His father, Baba, questions why his son doesn’t participate in sports or stand up for himself when being bullied. Baba sees all of the things he desires in his own son, in Hassan. Early on, this set off signals in my head. I instantly knew that Hassan had to be more than just Ali’s (the servant) son. Amir is good at ‘kite battling’ (my quote not the novel’s) and decides to participate in a local competition. As kite after kite goes down, the children in the community chase after them, hoping to catch one as some sort of prize. That being said, Amir wins the kite competition and Hassan, wanting to demonstrate what a good friend he is, runs off to capture the losing kite. Along the way, Hassan runs into the neighborhood/town bullies and is raped. Amir seeks out his friend, but instead finds him in an alleyway, face down being brutally pumped. Instead of speaking up or defending his friend, Amir instead watches, then takes off running to pretend he didn’t see anything. From that point on, Amir is forced to live with the guilt of his actions. Page after page the reader witnesses him trying to avoid Hassan so that he can also avoid the guilt he experiences over his inability to save him. When Hassan and his father are sent away, thanks to Amir, we continue on wondering what happened to Hassan.
Baba and Amir move to America in order to escape an Afghanistan that’s changing for the worse. In America, Amir still wonders about his friend, but ends up finding love and even pursues a successful writing career. Thoughts of Hassan still weigh heavy on him with every accomplishment, until he finally returns to his home country to check on an ailing friend of his father. This friend, Rahim Khan, tells Amir the tragic story of Hassan’s death, but also instills in him a desire to “be good again.” The challenge sends Amir on a month-long journey to find Hassan’s son, save him, and provide him with a better life.
The Bad: When Amir doesn’t save Hassan from the brutal rape in the alleyway, I was ready to put the book down. I didn’t want him to narrate another minute. I silently mumbled to myself for a moment, cursing him for lacking a backbone. Later, when Amir plots a way to make Hassan go away, I pitied Hassan. Being mistreated by the other children in the community isn’t enough, he has to endure rape, and is then made out to be a thief by Amir. As if all that isn’t enough, Hassan’s life later ends tragically with a bullet to the head, leaving his young son to be an orphan.
The Ugly: None
Favorite Part: In a flashback scene early on in the novel, Amir recalls going to see a psychic with Hassan. After reading this portion, I knew Hassan’s future would encompass several or at least one major tragic event.
Hunched over his cane, the fortune teller runs a gnarled hand across the surface of his deflated cheeks. Cups it before us. “Not much to ask for the truth, is it, a rupia each?” Hassan drops a coin in the leathery palm. I drop mine too. “In the name of Allah the most beneficent, most merciful,” the old fortune teller whispers. He takes Hassan’s hand first, strokes the palm with one hornlike fingernail, round and round, round and round. The finger then floats to Hassan’s face and makes a dry, scratchy sound as it slowly traces the curve of his cheeks, the outline of his ears. The calloused pads of his fingers brush against Hassan’s eyes. The hand stops there. Lingers. A shadow passes across the old man’s face. Hassan and I exchange a glance. The old man takes Hassan’s hand and puts the rupia back in Hassan’s palm. He turns to me. “How about you, young friend?” he says. On the other side of the wall, a rooster crows. The old man reaches for my hand and I withdraw it.
Rating: 5 out of 5. I would definitely recommend this book to a friend.
The Other Published Novel by Hosseini:
A Thousand Splendid Suns – Mariam is only fifteen when she is sent to Kabul to marry the troubled and bitter Rasheed, who is thirty years her senior. Nearly two decades later, in a climate of growing unrest, tragedy strikes fifteen-year-old Laila, who must leave her home and join Mariam’s unhappy household. Laila and Mariam are to find consolation in each other, their friendship to grow as deep as the bond between sisters, as strong as the ties between mother and daughter. With the passing of time comes Taliban rule over Afghanistan, the streets of Kabul loud with the sound of gunfire and bombs, life a desperate struggle against starvation, brutality and fear, the women’s endurance tested beyond their worst imaginings. Yet love can move a person to act in unexpected ways, lead them to overcome the most daunting obstacles with a startling heroism. In the end, it is love that triumphs over death and destruction. “A Thousand Splendid Suns” is an unforgettable portrait of a wounded country and a deeply moving story of family and friendship. It is a beautiful, heart-wrenching story of an unforgiving time, an unlikely bond and an indestructible love.