I’ve previously read And The Mountains Echoed and Thousand Splendid Sons by Khaled Hosseini, and believe me, this is an author who knows how to tell stories of pain and torment and anguish.
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini is the story of two boys growing up in the city of Kabul, in Afghanistan. Amir is the son of a rich man, while Hassan is the child of Amir’s father’s servant. Amir and Hassan, who are both motherless, shared the same wet nurse and despite the differences in their social status, are friends. Hassan is a Hazara, (an ethnic minority in Afghanistan) and he is bullied and tormented by Amir’s peers. Amir is not as courageous as Hassan, who demonstrates over and over again his love and respect and willingness to do anything for Amir, just as Hassan’s father does for Amir’s father. Amir’s and Hassan’s lives are forever shaped by several cowardly actions of Amir’s, which Amir regrets for the rest of his life.
Very soon after the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, Amir and his father fled for the United States, where Amir finished school and eventually married the love of his life. Amir eventually returned to Afghanistan, in an attempt to redeem himself for hurting Hassan. On his return, Amir barely recognised the Kabul of his childhood, which had become a violent, poverty stricken place.
Reading books like The Kite Runner makes me feel ashamed of myself for several reasons, one, for knowing so little about how people in other parts of the world live and what they go through, two, for being lucky enough to have been born into a majority ethnic group living in a stable and rich country and three, for knowing this and still choosing not to give everything I have to try to make a difference in the lives of people who are not as fortunate. I have a habit of burying my head in the sand when something is too horrible for me to think about, but the examples used in this book of the Taliban’s atrocities kept me awake the night I read this book.
The story is huge and full of terrible things, with details of inequality, hard-to-read depictions of the rape and abuse of children, and a terrible recounting of the public stoning of people found guilty of adultery, but The Kite Runner is also filled with heroes, such as Hussan and his father, Amir’s father, and eventually, Amir himself. A particularly lovely feature of the book was the feeling of belonging that Amir and his father had, both in Kabul and in San Francisco, as part of the Afghan community.
The edition I read was an illustrated edition, with photos of what to me looks like extreme poverty in a harsh land. The people in the photos look unhappy and frightened. The coloured photos show green walls everywhere, which I understand is a special colour for the Islamic people of Afghanistan. I suppose there is joy in people’s lives sometimes no matter what their circumstances, but these photos left me feeling sad.
The Kite Runner was Khaled Houssini’s first book and although it was a best seller, I think the author’s style has improved since writing this. Some of the storytelling was too obvious, with too many clichés and I found the narrator’s melodrama irritating as the story went on. However, while I wasn’t as touched by The Kite Runner as I was by the author’s other books, but it is still a worthy read.