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Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Kite Runner | Book Review

Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner is an unforgettable and heartfelt story of an Afghan boy’s search for redemption. Even after Amir’s move to California following the fall of the Afghanistan monarchy, after the Soviet Union’s invasion, and after the Taliban’s takeover, The Kite Runner still offers the possibility of redemption for Amir. Hosseini fuses love, honor, and loyalty with lies, betrayal, and sacrifices into a compelling novel that depicts the power of shame and salvation while opening a window into the trials and tribulations of a country wracked by a civil war, foreign invasions, religious tensions, and ethnic cleansings. Through its unfailing rendering of Amir’s journey to redeem himself, The Kite Runner hints that the individual, as well as mankind, can free itself from its past, and that it is only when it stands by and watches can evil claim its victory. Most importantly, through the intertwining lives of its characters and their haunting pasts, The Kite Runner offers hope where it is least expected.

The Kite Runner begins in the Wazir Akbar Khan district of Kabul in Afghanistan, and transits through several locations, including Peshawar in Pakistan and San Francisco, California in the United States. While the settings of Afghanistan and the United States differ markedly, they provide a vital contrast that helps to hone in on Khaled Hosseini’s attempt to depict the harsh political and social climates of the Afghanistan monarchy. While the Pashtun Baba, Amir’s father, is a close and loyal friend of Ali, Baba’s Hazara servant and the father of Hassan, the circumstances surrounding their friendship are more than just the consequences of a society ingrained in its religious beliefs. This camaraderie is adopted by their sons, Amir and Hassan, both of who are so naturally connected that it leads the readers to suspect that there is something more to what Hosseini is willing to reveal. The important idea is not that the friendship had developed, but that it did so in such a severe environment where if society had found out, it would have led to Baba’s and Amir’s excommunication. It is only later on in the United States is Amir able to freely contemplate the repercussions of his mistakes, his lies, and his past.

While The Kite Runner is centralized around Amir’s struggle toward his personal redemption, Hassan, Amir’s friend/servant, is an enduring character whose silence speaks ten times the volume of his actions. Born in a shack as the son of a Hazara servant, Hassan is the epitome of what a true friend is. Despite his inherent social inferiority to the Pashtun Amir, Hassan never expresses any contempt or jealousy towards Amir, even when Amir betrays him at his weakest moment. Hassan’s undying loyalty, childlike innocence, and immeasurable honor define him to be a character whose impression remains upon the story’s characters and the readers long after he is gone.

“I sat on a park bench near a willow tree. I thought about something Rahim Khan said just before he hung up, almost as an afterthought. There is a way to be good again. I looked up at those twin kites. I thought about Hassan. Thought about Baba. Ali. Kabul. I thought of the life I had lived until the winter of 1975 came along and changed everything.”

Khaled Hosseini has a remarkable ability to draw the readers into the story, and to feel the pangs of guilt, the bursts of joy, the tremors of anticipation, and the agonies of regret that the characters feel. The Kite Runner takes the readers on an emotional coaster ride through the various dimensions of human emotions, and leaves them off balanced and hungry for more. An important element of The Kite Runner is the gradual suspense that Hosseini builds into each chapter, each sentence, and each word, only releasing it at the very end. Hosseini constantly alludes to the consequences of what a life surrounded by social, political, familial, and economic conflicts can bring about, but it is through Amir’s eyes that the readers become inevitably identified with the story’s message.


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