The Kite Runner
by Khaled Hosseini
“I wondered if that was how forgiveness budded; not with the fanfare of epiphany, but with pain gathering its things, packing up, and slipping away unannounced in the middle of the night.” A gripping and enthralling book about betrayal and self-redemption, The Kite Runner had me hooked from the first page. Khaled Hosseini, the author, was born in 1965 in Kabul, Afghanistan. The Kite Runner is the first book this author wrote, it was published in 2003. It also received many awards, one of them being the “Literature to Life Award.” In respect to the authors homeland, this is a novel about Afghanistan and the trials and tribulations a nation, and its people go through. The Kite Runner takes on a broad theme of life, love, humanity, courage, and brotherhood. It begins in early Afghanistan, around the 1970’s, before the Russian military invaded and the formation of the monarchy. The political development of Afghanistan is the backdrop of the story, however, culture and pre-war Afghanistan are one of the main focal points in the story. Against a long trail of national despair, Hosseini is able to compose a universal story of redemption and betrayal that far exceeds its setting.
As the novel begins, protagonist, Amir, the son of a wealthy merchant, is approaching manhood. His friend and servant, Hassan, is from the socially inferior group the Hazara tribe and Shi’a sect of Islam. This foreshadows the tension that will remain the center of the story. Amir and his father, are apart of the Pashtun tribe and Sunni branch of Islam. Amir, Hassan and both their fathers live together in the wealthy section of Kabul. The Hazaras act as servants to the Pashtuns, however, are treated like family which clashes with what’s socially accepted.
While Amir and Hassan played together and were friends, the difference in social ranking between them gave their relationship a wary tension. Amir’s father, also called “Baba”, treats Hassan like a second son. This causes awe and hate to spring up within Amir for his father. Similarly, Amir is secretly jealous of Hassan’s courage and ability to hold Baba’s love. The author is able to capture this complicated family dynamic very vividly. On numerous occasions, Hassan defends Amir against bullies. One winter day in the mid 1970’s, Amir’s neighborhood had their annual kite tournament. Amir’s spinelessness reaches its highest point when he sees a group of bullies overwhelm Hassan and threaten to rape him. Instead of helping his friend in need, Amir runs away.
There are very few characters in fiction that are as revolting as Amir. Khaled Hosseini is able to take on hatred, envy, and rivalry so much that the reader will feel a lack of empathy towards Amir and his situation. As the Russian invasion begins, Amir and his father leave Afghanistan and settle in the United States. In their stay in the U.S. the roles become reversed. The once independent and prosperous Baba, can only find a measly job at a gas station while Amir easily blends in and becomes an English Major, which later turns to a successful writer. Although life seems to be going great for Amir, the betrayal still weighs heavily on him for the next 20 or so years.
Throughout the novel, there have been many moments when things went dark. When a call from an old friend is presented before us, the theme of redemption is revealed. Rahim Khan, an old family friend, called him from Pakistan telling him that “There is a way to be good again.” Amir takes this chance to go to back and make right all the wrongs he committed. During his return, Amir is confronted with doing the honorable thing and saving Hassan’s orphaned child or returning home empty handed. After his decision to save Sohrab, the orphaned child, Amir encounters a former nemesis, who is now apart of the Taliban. The story takes on a dark path as Hosseini describes how Sohrab was being sexually harassed by a large group of men that belonged to the Taliban, among them is Amir’s nemesis. After a long and painful confrontation, Amir succeeds in liberating Sohrab and bringing him to America to live with him. While this may seem like a good thing, Sohrab yearns for his old life, which Amir is unable to provide.
As the book comes to an end, the reader will have a change of heart towards Amir. The cowardly and spineless demeanor he had changes to one of courage. Khaled Hosseini achieved a goal that many authors are unable to do, rehumanize the Middle East in a way that contradicts the Western view. Hosseini does an incredible job of describing Afghanistan in a warm and beautiful light, which is often ignored by people in the West. This novel is not written so the style of writing is to be the main focus, it’s the plot and character development that should draw the reader in. The simple language balances out the complex characters and settings, in The Kite Runner.
Title: The Kite Runner
Author: Khaled Hosseini
Publisher: Riverhead Books 2003
Number of Pages: 400 pages
Genre: Fiction/Historical fiction