Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini [June/06]

This is a book that I have been wanting to read for a while, but just never got around to it. The other day I was talking about the fact that I still hadn't read it, so I decided that it was about time I sat down with it. I was not disappointed, I can see why when it came out it was a wildly recognized novel.

From the back:

Amir is the son of a wealthy Kabul merchant, a member of the ryling caste of Pashtuns. Hassan, his servant and constant companion, is a Hazara, a despised and impoverished caste. Their uncommon bond is torn by Amir's choice to abandon his friend amidst the increasing ethnic, religious, and political tensions of the dying year of the Afghan monarchy, and apparently dissolved when Amir and his father flee to California to escape the Soviet invasion, leaving Hassan and his own gentle father to a terrible fate. But years later, an old family friend calls Amir from Pakistan and reminds him: "There is a way to be good again." And Amir journeys back to a distant world, to try to right past wrongs against the only true friend he ever had.

When Kite Runner was released, it was one of those books that everyone was talking about. I was just slow in getting around to reading it. I am currently on a mission to read the books that I paid full-price for, leaving my second hand store purchases and yard sales to later. Of course, even when I buy a book new I rarely ever pay full price, but close enough. I bought Kite Runner last fall when my local bookstore had a sale on certain trade paperbacks. This was one of them.

Class and social struggle are something that has marked most generations and cultures. The situation in Afghanistan, of one culture being above another is not something all that new. When you take a man, though, that grew up in Afghanistan, so they have had a first-hand view of the situation there, it makes reading about it all that more interesting. Following September 11th, men and women from first-world countries found themselves at war in third-world Afghanistan, and by reading this book we can see what life was like leading up to the war that we were apart of. You would think Afghanistan so primitive, but it appears that before the Taliban entered the country, women at least had the right to work and the country had other oppurntunities that they lost with this switch of power.

Hassan may seem like a regular kid to readers, and you can not help feeling bad everytime something bad happens to him for defending Amir. It might be different if there was equality here, but it is very easy to see that Amir uses Hassan, in the end he doesn't really want to admit that he is friends with a Hazara because they are below him. Hassan on the other hand would do anything for Amir, even after Amir turns against him Hassan still genuinely wants to be his friend. Amir might overlook it at the time, but for the most part he has a close bond with Hassan, even if it is something he does not care to admit, Hassan never fully goes away. Amir thinks of him always.

The novel covers several periods in time. Amir is in the beginning of the 21st-century looking back on his early childhood in Afghanistan, then he is looking at his late teens, early twenties as a new member of American society, and then he moves to his present and talks about what life is like as he is nearing middle-age. This means that we learn a lot about Afghanistan, even when Amir is not there, through the friends that he meets and the people from the old country that he talks to. Then, he goes back there later in life to help out Hassan one more time.

This novel is really a novel about acceptance. Amir is virtually ignored by his father until they move to America. Hassan is always looking for acceptance from Amir and Amir is always trying to find acceptance with himself because one night he fails in saving someone important to him. A move that will haunt him for the larger part of his life. He feels like a coward, and for that reason never fully lives comfortably with himself until after he returns to his mother country.

The Kite Runner is a wonderful novel to learn about Afghanistan and also about acceptance.


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