A Journalist's Archive

Kite Runner
Khaled Hosseini
Reviewed by Kathy Hare

In the world of literature Khaled Hosseini hit the equivalent of a grand slam his first time at bat.  Not only did his first novel the "Kite Runner" make the New York Times Bestseller list, a movie based on his novel is now in production. 

I have to admit, when I first purchased this book it sat collecting dust on my book shelve for months.  Somehow I just couldn't bring myself to start reading a book based on modern day Afghanistan, in spite of the accolades on the back cover. All I could picture were the same barren hillsides I've seen in newscasts with men in turbans carrying AK-47's.

 Then Rosemary Martin recommended it to the book club, and the straight forward prose and complying story line grabbed my attention. I quickly realized my knowledge of Afghanistan was severely lacking.  Hosseini novel may be fiction but it educates and enlightens the reader about the culture, religion, and beauty of a country that has been torn apart by war for the last thirty years.  Furthermore, it is a story based on universal topics including friendship, betrayal, forgiveness, and redemption.

The Kite Runner opens with Amir standing in Golden Gate Park, in December 2001, shortly after receiving a phone call from an old friend in Pakistan. While reflecting on two kites sailing above San Francisco he remembers the voice of his boyhood friend Hassan saying, "For you, a thousands times over."  From there the reader is transported back to Kabul in 1964, a vibrant city where Amir's father, Baba, owns a beautiful house in an affluent neighborhood.  Hosseini's description of cherry trees, busy market places, and extravagant parties in juxposition to the city he returns to in 2001 is the stark reality of the ravages of war.

American readers gain an insight to the tensions between modern day Sunni and Shi'a Muslims as Hosseini describes the childhood friendship between Amir and Hassan.  Amir, a Sunni, receives an education and all the trappings of a decent life, while Hassan, a Shi'a, is a servant with little chance to improve his status in life.  Hassan, a loyal friend to Amir must be ignored or treated like a slave when Amir is in the company of his peers. The cultural prejudice dividing the two sects is reinforced when Baba's relationship to Hassan is revealed at the end of the story.

Through Hosseini descriptive prose, readers can feel what it is like to be affluent in one country only to end up penniless in a foreign land as Baba's and Amir's escape from Afghanistan. But the main theme of the novel applies to anyone who has lived a less than perfect life.  In 1975, Amir abandons his friend after the two of them win a kite flying contest in Kabul.  He further compounds his betrayal forcing Hassan and his father to leave the city.  Out of a sense of guilt, Amir returns to Kabul in 2001 to save Hassan's son, but the trip becomes a means of redemption for Amir.

Guilt is the heavy burden Amir carried for thirty years.  In fact, some book clubs members thought it was the one aspect of the novel that was over exaggerated.  But every reader found this book engrossing and educational.  Unless Americans grasps the chasm between Muslim sects we will never understand the political world of Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, or any other Moslem country.  Reading the Kite Runner is an excellent way to begin your education.

First published in The New Falcon Herald
Article Copyright © 2006 Bluestack Consulting, Inc.
All Rights Reserved