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Book Review: The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
The Kite Runner
Afghanistan has been a major part of the news for the last decade. Like most people, it's a country that I knew little about.
Then my wife read The Kite Runner and highly recommended it to me. She knows I have high standards for good historical fiction, so her recommendation meant a lot. I'm glad she told me about it.
The Kite Runner is the first novel by Afghan author Khaled Hosseini. It's a well written and tragic story that engages the reader as it paints a picture of life growing up in Afghanistan.
This is my review of the book.
Plot Summary of "The Kite Runner"
What's this book about?
The Kite Runner is about a boy named Amir growing up in Afghanistan. His father is a wealthy businessman and his best friend, Hassan, is one of their servants. The story is told by Amir as he recounts his life growing up in Kabul during the Afghan monarchy.
Even though Hassan is his closest friend and loyal servant, Amir delights in tricking the uneducated Hassan at every opportunity. Amir has the chance to redeem himself one tragic night and defend Hassan from neighborhood thugs. Instead he cowers behind a corner and watches the brutal act. Driven by shame for his cowardice and tormented by Hassan's continued loyalty, Amir shuns Hassan and eventually betrays him.
After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan Amir flees the country with his father and they find their way to the Afghan community outside of San Francisco. There Amir tries to forget his past and begin a new life.
Then a phone call in 2001 from an old family friend in Afghanistan offers Amir "a way to be good again" with a last chance to redeem himself.
Thoughts About "The Kite Runner"
There are a few bright moments but much of The Kite Runner is sad and tragic. It's heart breaking to read about a country destroyed by civil war, invasion and then the Taliban who hid behind religious extremism to brutalize and oppress the Afghan people. The political events provide a crucial background to the story and you can feel the loss of normal life for people there as events unfold.
Amir struggles for his father's affection and you feel sorry for him at first. But his treatment and eventual betrayal of Hassan make you really dislike Amir by the middle of the book. It's a feeling which never fully goes away although I was pulling for him near the end. That was more for Hassan's sake than Amir's though.
Hassan on the other hand is very likable...thoughtful, good natured and always loyal to Amir. His frequent response of "For you, a thousand times over" to Amir reminded me of Westley in The Princess Bride who answered every request with "as you wish."
A well written novel that you won't want to put down.
Historical and Cultural Elements of the Book
One reason I enjoyed reading The Kite Runner is the setting. It's the first story I've read about life in Afghanistan. Don't worry, it's not a history lesson, but you will learn about Afghan culture, traditions and some history.
I know very little about Afghan history and was hoping when I started reading that the book would go into a lot of historical detail. After reading, I'm glad it didn't. The story of the relationships Amir has with his father and Hassan take center stage...as it should. The history is a background element to give context and depth to the story and Hosseini does a good job of weaving it in.
I did learn a lot about kite fighting and kite running which I had never heard of before. Apparently they are very popular sports in some countries.
What I Liked About "The Kite Runner"...
- Hosseini uses a very descriptive writing style that brings to life the sights, sounds and smells of life in Afghanistan and the Afghan community in the US.
- I found myself really caring about what happened to the characters and developed some emotions for them...both good and bad.
- The historical events are woven in seamlessly. They provide background without overwhelming the story.
Other Books by Khaled Hosseini
Hosseini's second book. This story is about two women living and trying to survive in Afghanistan during the same time period as The Kite Runner.
Before You Read...
There are some disturbing scenes of violence and abuse in the book but they are important elements of the story and not gratuitous or exceedingly graphic.
Learn More About The Author - Khaled Hosseini
Here are links to more info about the author. It's hard to believe this was his first novel.
Who Was Your Favorite Character?
My Rating of "The Kite Runner"
I enjoyed reading the The Kite Runner and give it 4 stars. It's an emotional story that draws you in and I wanted to read it straight through in one shot.
While it didn't make me an expert on Afghanistan, reading this book did give me a better perspective on its people and history.
How Do You Rate "The Kite Runner"?
Watch the Movie!
A movie version of The Kite Runner was released in 2007 and is now available on DVD.
Other than some missing scenes, the movie is very true to the book and worth watching.
Now it's your turn...what did you think of The Kite Runner? Please share your critique in the comments below.