Newest Review: ... on you, it really is one of them books you cant put down. Set In Afghanstan, the book focuses on the character of Amir who from what you di... more
Opportunity for Redemption
The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
Member Name: Essexgirl2006
The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
Advantages: Compelling story
Disadvantages: Not all characters likeable
This is the debut novel by Khaled Hosseini, a Californian doctor who was born in Afghanistan and fled to the US seeking political asylum in 1980, thus you can be sure he knows he stuff regarding the early years of his lead character.
The book is told from the perspective of Amir. Amir's mother died in childbirth and he grew up thinking that his father never quite forgave him for killing his mother. Amir's father, or Baba as he is referred to throughout the book, was a successful businessman and philanthropist and they shared their house with Ali (a childhood friend of Baba's) and his son Hassan who were Hazaras, a Shi'a Muslim immigrant minority group rumoured to be descended from Genghis Khan, that were often regarded as second class citizens in Afghanistan. Ali and Hassan were servants to Amir's family. Hassan is about the same age as Amir and also motherless as she run off just after Hassan was born as he was disfigured by a hare lip. Although Hassan had to look after Amir in the house, he was also his main playmate. Unable to read he enjoyed Amir reading stories to him and Amir loved the power this gave him as Amir was a coward and it was often Hassan who stood up for him in fights. This left Amir feeling inadequate that he was not the brave, sporty hero that Baba was, and that he was a disappointment to his father. Amir was closer to his father's friend Rahim Khan who understood Amir's love of books and writing, which Baba did not.
However, the boys' main hobby was kite fighting and kite running which was a national sport in Afghanistan at the time. Baba had been kite fighting champion and Amir felt the pressure to get the title to, and earn the respect and love of his father. Hassan was also a talented kite runner, meaning that when a beaten (torn) kite fell to the ground, there was a race on to catch it. It was also very prestigious to catch the last beaten kite at the end of the tournament. However, this tournament sets the stage for the tragic events that change the boys' lives forever. I do not wish to reveal the plot to you, and I am not being melodramatic here, this really was tragic and something that could have been avoided if Amir had been less of a coward. In order to cover his cowardice and shame, Amir continues to behave despicably and you begin to feel uncomfortable reading about such a dislikeable character.
Later in the book Amir and Baba escape the Russian invasion and go to the US leaving close friend Rahim behind in their house (Ali and Hassan have since moved on). One day, after the Taliban have been in power for a few years, Rahim Khan calls Amir in the US and asks him to come and visit him one last time in Pakistan. He tells Amir a story of how things have been in Afghanistan that means Amir must go to Kabul and face his demons (quite literally) and hopefully put right some of his wrongs before it is too late. At this point you assume you know how the book is going to end, but let me assure you that it is not as predictable as you might have thought.
The book seems to be divided into three parts: Amir and Hassan's early years in Kabul; Amir and Baba settling into America where Baba had to work as a petrol pump attendant and Amir's return to Afghanistan alone, as a man. The book is extremely well-written and engrossing. You learn how life was for Afghani immigrants in the US as well as for those back home alongside an original and compelling story. Over the course of the book the characters develop well, although you have to get used to the fact that you might not like all of them. Hosseini's writing style keeps you engrossed in spite of this, there are twists and turns and the story is not straight forward, but is always believable. You even start to feel some sympathy for Amir.
I have a paperback edition, published by Bloomsbury, with 324 pages. The book retails for £7.99 but is available on Amazon for £3.99 (free delivery over £15).
On Hosseini's website he also writes an interesting essay as to how life imitated art for him on a recent return trip to Afghanistan. I wouldn't recommend reading this if you are intending to read the book though.
Summary: A compelling and original story about friendship set against the backdrop of Afghanistan