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The Kite Runner
by Khaled Hosseini

Amir and Hassan are two kids growing up in Kabul in the early 1970s. Amir is the only son of a wealthy businessman, while Hassan is the child of his father's servant. They are practically brothers, these two, spending most of their days side-by-side. Amir, however, can never quite forget the class difference between the two of them, and occasionally plays jokes on his friend. Despite this, Hassan is steadfast and loyal to Amir, willing to endure anything for him. Their bond is shattered after a terrible event casts a shadow over Amir's greatest triumph, and soon after he and his father must flee Afghanistan as war begins to tear the country apart. Years later, after his father's death, Amir returns to his home country to seek out Hassan and atone for his betrayal the suffering it caused his friend.

This is a very powerful novel. For a time, it seemed like everyone was talking about it. Several professors at my university use the text for their classes, and it's been adapted for stage and for screen. But even though I was constantly exposed to the book, it took years for me to finally settle down and read it...and once I had, I wondered why I kept delaying.

The greatest strength of the book is the friendship between Amir and Hassan. Amir can be difficult to like at first, because he's a spoiled kid who likes to play tricks that take advantage of his friend's trust and ignorance. When he fails to assist Hassan at a critical moment, I was able to forgive that because, well, sometimes people are cowards and one never knows how to react in a bad situation. The fact that he took out his frustration with his cowardice on Hassan was awful and made me really dislike the character, but as the years went by I began to feel sympathy for him once again. Amir was only half a person without Hassan, and his guilt continued to torment him. His redemptive quest at the end does eventually make Amir an admirable person...and by the final pages, I couldn't help cheering for the character I'd loved and hated in vicious cycles.

What I know of Afghanistan is pretty limited, and that which has filtered through to me is usually related to war and extreme Islam. So the first thing I really enjoyed about this book was learning about what life had been like in Afghanistan before all descended into chaos. I had no idea that 'kite fighting' existed, let alone that it was a popular sport in the Middle East. Hosseini's descriptions of the city of Kabul and Amir's gilded lifestyle revealed the beauty and joy of Afghanistan to me.

But all the ugliness of that world is here, too. As Hassan and his father Ali trudge away from Amir's home to strike out on their own, there were tears in my eyes. When Amir and his father were forced to start life anew in Pakistan and America after fleeing Afghanistan, I was horrified even as I admired the determination and pluck of Amir's father. But at times, all this misery was almost too much; as I was about two-thirds of the way through the book I turned to my boyfriend and demanded, “Doesn't anything good ever happen in this book? This is such a downer!!!” He laughed and assured me that no, there's very little happiness in this story, just suffering and the worst of humanity. I must have looked distraught, because he quickly assured me that, “Well, there's a ray of hope that promises a better future!” But I stand by my assessment – this is a totally depressing read. But that's what makes it so powerful; it becomes much harder to be complacent about the troubles of the world outside America's borders when they're presented in such a visceral, moving way.

5 out of 5 stars

To read more about The Kite Runner, buy it or add it to your wishlist click here.


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