January 14, 2015

Book: The Kite Runner by Khalid Hosseini

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 3:24 pm

imagesA friendly warning: Since this is not a thriller, I decided to put in some key plot points in this review and therefore if you do not like spoilers, you may want to skip this review after the first couple of paragraphs.

Khalid Hosseini is a master of emotions. Though he wrote this, The Kite Runner, as his first book, I read his second book, A Thousand Splendid Suns,  first. And was enchanted. So, I eagerly turned to this book, which established his fame in the literary world first. Like the other, this one also is about life in Afghanistan but included in this is the immigrant experience where some of the characters emigrate to US and try to find a life there. First, let us look at the story.

Ali, a cook and Hazarah working for Amir, narrator’s dad, a Pushtun. Ali’s son is Hassan, the best friend of Amir. His mother ran away. Ali married her since she was his first cousin. He is crippled and paralyzed at the mouth but she is a pretty but loose girl.

Baba, Amir’s dad is a large figure in the city, both figuratively (setting up orphanages etc) and physically. Tolerant of Hazaras and Shias in general, he is against the narrow preaching of the mullahs, who he says pits Afghan against Afghan on the basis of parochial views.

His father is disappointed that Amir is not physical like he is, and is immersed always in books. His friend Rahim Khan is the one who provides the needed encouragement to Amir in his intellectual pursuits. Rahim reads his first story and encourages him.

Hassan is confronted by the half German, half Afghani bully Assef. A slingshot from Hassan provides temporary reprieve but earns a bitter enmity of Assef, who seems to think racial purity of Hitler applied to Afghanistan would require the Pushtuns to get rid of everyone else, including Hazaras.

When Amir wins the kite festival and rises in Baba’s esteem, he watches Hassan get raped by Assef. Despite Hassan’s loyalty and despite Hassan having saved his ass just a few weeks ago, Amir is afraid of standing up to Assef and runs away like the coward he recognizes himself to be.

The tight relationship that is even closer than blood brothers between Amir and Hassan  breaks then, with Hassan becoming listless and sad and pining away and Amir getting grumpy and disgruntled.

He tries to even get rid of Hassan by complaining to Baba but when he plants money and watch and accuses them of stealing, Hassan ‘admits’ to it to save Amir and Ali and Hassan leave the town.

Later, when the situation in Afghanistan becomes unsafe, Baba and Amir are also on the run to Pakistan and then to America. This was when the Russian rule in Afghanistan becomes unbearable.

Baba has serious adjustment problems in the US while Amir falls for Soraya, who has had a very ‘shady’ past by Afghan standards.

But Baba is now dying of cancer.  He dies and then Amir discovers that Hassan is his (illegitimate) half-brother and that he and his wife were killed in Afghanistan by the Taliban (Rahim Khan tells him all). His son Sohrab is now in an orphanage and Amir goes in to get him out. The change to Afghanistan under the Taliban shocks him.  What shocks him still more is what he learns of Shorab in the orphanage. In trying to rescue Shorab, he is almost killed by an old enemy who has become powerful in Taliban’s Afghanistan.

What do I think of this? Well, the style and the tempo of storytelling is there, as in the second book. You also have twists that make you sit up in shock, just like the second book. But in my view, the second book is better constructed and is a lot more polished than this one is.

The ending is heartrending, where Shorab gives up on life itself and becomes catatonic at the point of being rescued and moved to America.

It surely deserves a 7/10

  • – Krishna

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