Thursday, December 24, 2009
The Kite Runner--Book Review
Khaled Husseini's uplifting/haunting tale of Afghanistan is not lacking in gloom and doom. Every page is teeming with enough betrayal, depression, guilt, fear, and pain to fill a whole novel. In the midst of so much agony, though, lies a certain inspiring sense of family, commitment, and repentance.
The book begins in pre-soviet Afghanistan where Amir, the son of a well-to-do businessman, and Hassan, a racially persecuted servant boy in the employ of Amir's father, are growing into their teenage years together. Amir, the awkward young boy coming to terms with the world around him, struggles with his relationship of friend/master with Hassan, altogether heightened by the taunts and insults thrown at Hassan his peers and the seemingly un-fair preference of affection by Amir's father.
Hassan is, always, the pinnacle of selfless love. Even as his friend mistreats and misuses him in light of his superior social status turns an understanding cheek and continues to devote his every ability to Amir's happiness.
Ultimately, Amir betrays Hassan and in the ensuing years Amir and his father flee the country ahead of the Soviet invasion only to leave Amir haunted for the rest of his life by his treatment of his boyhood companion and ultimately leading him on a quest of repentance back into his homeland torn asunder by years of war and Taliban control.
Act I of this book, consisting mostly of boys flying kites and playing in the streets of kabul, is effortlessly creates a view of Afghanistan that we are rarely priviliged to see. Instead of the scenes of terrorism and violence that we are accustomed to we are allowed to peer at everyday life of an afrage Afghani family: kites, kabobs, and watching Steve McQueen in perfect dubbed Farsi.
The tone shift quickly to one of sadness and wastes no time shooting the story to the United States where Amir and his father attempt to scratch a living and adjust to a foreign land. This Act II, is the comin-up-for-air as Amir pursues education, love, and a famiy of his own. Althewhile the shadow of his past lurks near as well as new trials to impede in what should be the happiest time of the young man's life.
Entering Act II the elements combine as Amir is called back to Pakistan to atone for his choices and everything comes together in cataclysmic detail. As if not wanting the reader to feel at ease happiness remains just out of reach again, and again, and again, until the final page remains with hopeful yet cloudy skies.
I appreciated that Huseini did not take the easy way out. It would have been simple to change a few things a throw a smiling happily ever after before the final period but that is not the world we live in and certainly not the state of modern Afghanistan. Sometimes in shudder-inducing detail we see the effects that decades of power disputes have done to a once peaceful country as children are purchased for abuse, men sell prosthetic legs to feed their families, men and women are publicly executed and the sacrifices that good people make to keep their hope alive.
Some of the storytelling elements come off heavy-handed. As the foreshadowed elements reach fruition Husseini stops the story to point at the litterary device he has created as though to say "remember how I mentioned this earlier, here it is again. Do you get it? Do ya?"
That said, I loved this book. It was refreshing to see a different side of the country that we have been at war with for the last 9 years. It doesn't quite make you appreciate the culture, which includes a stark double-standard for women and a certain roman taste for violence. Even in its darkest hour you have to appreciate the amount of real emotion that the author conveys.
If you don't have the time to read the book, make sure you see the movie. The two hours does an excellent job of condensing the story and frankly it removes about 7 layers of crippling depression from the character's lives. Book and movie: A-