Hassan and I fed from the same breasts. We took our first steps on the same lawn in the same yard. And, under the same roof, we spoke our first words. Mine was Baba. His was Amir. My name. Looking back on it now, I think the foundations for what happened in the winters of 1975 – and all that followed – was already laid in those first words. -From The Kite Runner, page 11-
The Kite Runner is the story of two boys – Hassan a Shi’a, Amir a Sunni; one from wealth, the other a servant – who grow up in Afganistan the best of friends, until one fateful day when Amir is twelve in the winter of 1975. What Amir witnesses changes the boys’ friendship forever, and sets events in motion which will have lifelong consequences.
Khaled Hosseini begins his novel in Afganistan, then takes the reader across the ocean to San Francisco where Amir and his father begin a new life as immigrants. A telephone call one day from his father’s old friend summons Amir back to an Afganistan which has changed – a place where Taliban soldiers patrol, where people are hung in the street or stoned to death during an intermission at a soccer game, and where children are no longer children. It is here where Amir must face his demons and where lies, betrayal and secrets will be uncovered.
This is a novel which explores many themes: family loyalty, the rigidity of religious division, the cruel effects of war, and the power of love and redemption. Hosseini’s writing is simple and powerful; a no frills, spare style which stuns. Readers should be warned – there are graphic scenes which involve child rape and molestation. The violence in the book is painful to read…and heartbreaking.
Earlier this year I read Hosseini’s second novel A Thousand Splendid Suns (reviewed here), and so comparisons between the two novels was inevitable. I thought Hosseini’s writing matured from the first book to the second, and A Thousand Splendid Suns affected me more strongly on many levels. Flaws with The Kite Runner include some plot twists which bordered on the unbelievable, and so parts of the book felt contrived to me.
Despite this, The Kite Runner is a impressive first novel which reveals the horror of what has happened, and continues to happen in Afganistan. The Kite Runner has been banned by the Afghan government because of a rape scene of a young boy and the ethnic tensions that the film highlights. It has faced challenges and bans in the United States as well.
This is a book which leaves a lasting impression. Highly recommended.