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A Powerful Story of Atonement and Redemption
am 17. April 2007
The reviews of The Kite Runner when it came out made me think I wouldn't like the book so I deliberately passed on it until now. I recently had the opportunity to read Khaled Hosseini's stunning second novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns, and realized that I had made a mistake by skipping The Kite Runner.
Amir grows up in a male-dominated kind of Eden in his wealthy father's beautiful home in Kabul. His doting father loves to give him presents. There are two servants Ali and his son, Hassan, who make life pleasant. Amir and Hassan also enjoy a close friendship whose foundation is Hassan's tremendous loyalty. But there are cracks in Eden. Amir knows that his father doesn't really approve of him: Amir is a coward while his Baba is as brave as a lion. Amir's mother died in childbirth so there's little nurturing except from Baba's friend and business partner, Rahim Khan. Ali's wife and Hassan's mother, Sanaubar, ran off with a clan of traveling singers and dancers a week after Hassan was born. Both boys shared a wet nurse which helped make them feel closer. Ali and Hassan are Shi'a Muslims and ethnic Hazaras, two qualities that make them be viewed as worthy of only being servants by the powerful Pashtuns. To further emphasize their differences, Ali is crippled and Hassan has a hare lip. Amir loves books, but uses his learning to humble Hassan.
But Amir thinks things are going well when his father hints that he thinks Amir can win the annual kite fighting festival, something his father did as a boy. Perhaps if Amir can win, his father will approve of him. With the talented help of Hassan, the greatest kite runner (helpful in getting kites into the sky and running down those that have but cut off from their string), Amir has high hopes. The day goes well until the very end when Hassan finds himself in trouble: Amir turns his back on his friend out of cowardice. Branded by that shameful memory, the close bond between the boys is broken.
The book then takes Amir and his father to the United States to escape the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Amir adjusts to the new country better than Baba who wants to keep to the old ways.
Many years later, the tranquility of Amir's life is unexpectedly shaken when a dying Rahim Khan calls on Amir to visit him in Pakistan. What Rahim Khan has to say will forever change Amir's life. In that message comes an opportunity to atone and gain redemption.
This story is very powerful. You'll find yourself filled with strong emotions as you imagine what it is like to be Amir, Hassan, Baba, and Ali. While the story is based on modern Afghanistan, the lessons are much more universal than that.
The plot is beautifully woven in ways that will surprise and delight you. It's hard to imagine how a first-time novelist could have been so deft. But having read A Thousand Splendid Suns, it's clear that Mr. Hosseini has staggering amounts of talent.
So if reviews have discouraged you from reading this book, forget the reviews. Read The Kite Runner anyway. You'll be glad you did.