The beginning of The Kite Runner, a novel by Khaled Hosseini, which is full of both adventure and adversity, is set in the last peaceful days of the monarchy in Afghanistan. The protagonist, Amir, lives with his rich widower father, as well as servants Ali and Ali’s son, Hassan, who is the same age as Amir. Despite political tensions between the group Amir and his father belong to (the Pashtuns) and the group Ali and Hassan belong to (the Hazaras), Amir’s father insists that the servants remain in their home. As a young boy, Amir desperately searches for his father’s affection and becomes intensely jealous of his father’s unexplained warmth towards the servant’s son, Hassan. Throughout his childhood, Amir refuses to accept his profound envy for Hassan, constantly forcing Hassan to prove his loyalty. On the other hand, Amir’s loyalty towards Hassan is not tested until the winter of 1975, when the boys are both 12, just after Amir has finally proven himself in a kite running competition, an activity he and Hassan both take much pride in. The event changes the lives of both Amir and Hassan forever; you’ll have to read the book to find out how.
As the story progresses, the woeful tale of Afghanistan, including its revolution in 1978, the Russian invasions beginning in 1979, the Taliban movement up until 2001, and, finally, the American bombings after September 2001, unfolds. Amir’s life becomes much more complicated than running kites and trying to make his father proud. Amir realizes that, while he can write fictional books, making up ingenious stories of others in his head, he cannot quite face reality, unable to make himself face his mistakes of the past. Yet, just before the book concludes, a final opportunity to redeem himself presents itself. Realizing that this is his last chance, Amir takes it. The final image in the book is of Amir running a kite in America with Hassan’s son, just as he did in Afghanistan with Hassan.
Before you begin this book, you should be warned that The Kite Runner is not a cheerful and easy read. While there are moments of the story which make you adore a certain character or relate to a particular situation, the book not only describes the difficulties of learning to stand up to one’s country in the face of intense turmoil, but it describes the much more difficult and uncomfortable task of learning to stand up to oneself and to own up to one’s mistakes. This journey, finding redemption from mistakes you wish you could sink to the bottom of the ocean and float away from, is a journey that some people die on, others never even embark on it, unwilling to face the rough waves of shame.
Khaled Hosseini, the celebrated author of The Kite Runner as well as A Thousand Splendid Suns and And the Mountains Echoed, is an Afghan-born novelist. He currently serves as a Goodwill Envoy to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the UN Refugee Agency, and is the founder of The Khaled Hosseini Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan. As a reader, what struck me most about Hosseini’s writing style was his ability to profoundly understand what it means to be human. Hosseini promises no comfort in his book, forcing the reader to see and realize the mistakes Amir makes and the mistakes of those around him. Most importantly, Hosseini strongly advocates for redemption. As a character once tells Amir, Hosseini believes that, even out of some of the worst crimes in history, “There is a way to be good again…”