khan amir

Book Review: The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

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I know very well that you can’t judge a book from its cover. Nevertheless, the moment I set my eye on The Kite Runner’s cover on one of my favorite bookshop’s  shelves, I decided it was good. The moment I read the synopsis on the back cover, I decided it was great. One hour later, I was telling myself it was one of the best books I’d ever read!

The Kite Runner Book Cover

Amir and Hassan are bond by a friendship that is closer to brotherhood. Hassan and his father are Hazara Shia who work for Amir’s father who is a Sunni Pashtun. Nevertheless, the alleged superiority of Amir’s descent and religious affiliation, and the continuous molestation of Amir’s Sunni Pashtun neighbors never made him give up on Hassan…until the day cowardice betrayed him.

So, Hassan got raped and Amir couldn’t do anything about it, although Hassan suffered his fate just to secure Amir’s glory after he’d won the kite running competition in Kabul. He could’ve given Assef the blue kite and saved himself but he hadn’t wanted to betray Amir who, on the other hand, just hid there and watched his friend, brother and servant get humiliated in the most awful of ways.

Leaving your friend suffer this atrocious humiliation is a coward deed, indeed. However, and since he’s not a naturally bad kid, his indignation and fury get beyond description and what does he do to redeem himself? He plans to kick Hassan and his father, Ali, out of their mansion! Guilt and disgrace are killing him in the inside and he can’t stand looking Hassan in the eye anymore.

When the Russians invade Afghanistan in 1979, Amir and his father sought refuge in the USA. As years passed by, Amir has succeeded in becoming a published writer. He’s now married to a beautiful Afghan girl with a suspicious past but they’re in love and happy as can be.

…But sometimes, it only takes one phone call to change the course of our lives.

Rahim Khan, Amir’s father’s friend, calls Amir from Pakistan and tells him that Hassan was killed by the Taliban along with his wife and that their son, Sohrab, was still alive in Kabul. Rahim Khan then whispers a phrase that shakes Amir’s world and life: “There’s a way to be good again.”

As it turns out, Rahim Khan knows about everything and he’s now providing Amir with a chance for redemption. Nevertheless, Amir is happy and relatively well-off now. Should he opt for his happy American life or go to Kabul and haunt his haunting past in a city controlled by the Taliban wolves?

As mentioned above, Amir wasn’t a bad kid and he hasn’t grown up to be a bad man, either. Therefore, he  seized the opportunity to reconcile himself with his past and undo his mistakes.

Kabul is not a welcoming city, neither are its rulers. However, true Afghans like the driver Farid and Rahim Khan are there to help. Amir sets foot in Kabul with one goal in mind; finding Sohrab. Sadly, Amir learns the boy is sold to entertain one of Taliban’s big guns, whom, it turns out, is no one but Assef, Hassan’s rapist!

After a big quarrel between Amir and Assef, and with very considerable help from Sohrab and Farid (Sohrab is genius with the slingshot and Farid is an amazing driver,) Amir manages to break free from the Taliban. After an even bigger administrative quarrel, Amir succeeds in getting Sohrab out of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Adult Amir and Sohrab

“The Kite Runner” is a feelings stirring phenomenon. I think that you can hate the book, but you I don’t think you can deny it moved you. The reason I used the word phenomenon is because, up to now, there is not a single person I know  read the book and wasn’t moved by the events. Some people liked the book, others loved it, and a few hated it, but they were all moved to different extents and in different ways. Actually, someone complained that she hated the book because it was TOO moving!

The story in “The Kite Runner” is a complicated mixture of overlapping connections. Friendship, brotherhood, bravery, regret, guilt, redemption, racism, in/justice and love are all heavily presented themes. Hosseini makes good use of his storytelling skills to convey images that actually speak to you. The description is startling yet realistic. The thing about “The Kite Runner” is that the film plays on after one or two lines. I know we can imagine while reading other books but the description and the storytelling in this book enjoy a high quality graphics! Also, the events are enchanting in good and bad ways but they’re all deeply moving. If this book doesn’t move you, I don’t know what will.

As far as the characters are concerned, one cannot but remark that each one of them enjoys unforgettable traits. Amir, Hassan, Baba, Ali, Rahim Khan, Sohrab, Assef, The General, Soraya…are quite different people but whose behavior is very relatable. I think one of the most attracting features in this book is that the characters’ traits are not farfetched. You can see relatable examples of their behavior in everyday life.

However, I think that this novel falls short in describing the Taliban. I’m sure they’re bad people but Hosseini’s description was extravagantly grotesque. Hosseini sure hates them, but the way they are portrayed is surreal. Sometimes, I felt I wouldn’t be surprised if the book said the Taliban had fiery eyes and threw flames of fire out of their mouths!

Holding my copy of the book

Finally, I think that, although it might bring you down to tears, “The Kite Runner” remains one of the most enjoyable reads I’ve had. Also, if you’re into writing as I am, then this is the kind of book that when you finish might scream: “This is the book I want to write.”

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