by thea marie
A journal of items that I am reading/ have read: a personal commitment for 2008
The Kite Runner
Had it not been for one of the girls in our circle suggesting this title for all of us to read and discuss, I might never have given this novel a second look. The title wasn't one that would have drawn my interest, and if it had, the jacket blurb wouldn't have either. Not that it was poorly written or anything, it was just that everything about it seemed to be outside my normal scope of interest. Now I'm wondering how many other gems I might have missed by not stepping out of that invisible fence.
The setting of the story starts out in Kabul, Afghanistan prior to the country being ravaged by war. The main character is Amir, the pampered but emotionally neglected son of a wealthy widower, whom he calls Baba. As part of his privileged upbringing, Amir is attended by Hassan, the son of his father's lifelong friend and manservant, Ali. Although Ali and Hassan are in their employ, both also share a personal relationship with Baba and Amir.
Amir's mother died in childbirth, so he is raised by his father who provides handsomely for his material needs, but does not, in Amir's eyes, seem to appreciate him on a personal level. Consequently, the boy's self-esteem and confidence are compromised. This is further complicated by his more sensitive nature and his scholarly interests, and by his father's more nurturing attention to Hassan.
Amir, although he loves Hassan, is conflicted by his deep-seated resentment toward him. This comes out at times in his cruel treatment of Hassan, who never wavers in his loyalty and devotion to Amir. Amir's social position over Hassan also serves to distort Amir's ability to fully appreciate Hassan. Ultimately, Amir betrays Hassan in the worst sort of way, which sets off a tragic chain of events, the shame of which Amir will live with for decades.
In his late teens, after war breaks out, Amir and his father flee to the United States, leaving the world they knew, and all they had behind in Kabul. The two men find themselves in a strange land, having to readjust their lives to a new culture while trying desperately to hold on to the parts of their own culture that make them who they are. Amir, being young, adapts more easily, and he goes about setting up a new life for himself. He tries to move on despite the lingering guilt he continues to feel over his lost friend until he is called upon to return to Afghanistan and complete a task that finally allows him to somewhat redeem himself in his own heart.
This is a story of friendship, allegiances, betrayal, and trying to make things right. Hosseini's scenes are at times stark, cruel, and repulsive. I found myself having to stop reading because I was so angry, or so outraged, or because I was crying. Most of the time; however, I couldn't put the book down. The settings, the interaction between characters (specifically that it was so male-dominated), and the culture were foreign to me, but the story line reinforced for me that people are people. Despite our backgrounds, economic levels, ethnicity, the things we do to each other and for each other- human behavior is universal.
Kind of like same stuff, different continent, but it was interesting to see how backgrounds, economic levels, etc. can color and shape the details.
I love learning about people, what and how people other than me do what they do, which is why I so enjoy traveling. When I read the last lines of this book and closed it, I felt as if I had just returned home from a very satisfying trip.
The Kite Runner was Hosseini's first novel, and wound up a #1 New York Times Bestseller. How good does it get?