The Kite Runner

Author: Khaled Hosseini

Published By:
Penguin Group

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


                Previews and a soundtrack inspired me to check out a film based on a book by Khaled Hosseini The Kite Runner was a New York Times Bestseller for an incredible number of weeks, but I had never heard of the book until I saw the promos for the film.  After finally getting a chance to view the incredibly moving film, I knew I had to get my hands on the novel that inspired it.

                Reading The Kite Runner, I soon discovered that the creators of the film kept extremely close to the book.  The novel is written in the first person by Amir, a successful writer who came to America as a refugee from Afghanistan with his father.  He tells of us a phone call received from old friend Rahim Khan who asks Amir to come to Pakistan to ďbe good again.Ē  Khanís words bring back memories of an incident that destroyed a friendship years ago.

                We are transported back to Amirís youth in Afghanistan, living with a father who is somewhat indifferent to his son after the loss of his wife (Amirís mother) in childbirth.  In fact, as Amir has often observed, it would seem that his wealthy and well-known philanthropist father tends to dote more on Hassan, the son of his servant Ali and playmate of Amir from birth. 

Amir is often at war with himself, jealous of Hassanís interaction with his father, but noting what a terrific friend Hassan has been to him over the years.  And then there are the social issues involved with being friends with Hassan.  First, Hassan is a Hazara and Amir is a Pashtun.  In Afghanistan, the two heritages rarely mix and are often at odds with one another.  Second, Hassan is technically a servant and it is not exactly socially acceptable for a wealthy Afghan to be best friends with a servant. 

Despite this, the two are inseparable and appear to complement each other nicely.  Hassan marvels at Amirís ability to read and write stories while Amir marvels at Hassanís wisdom, quick wit and ability to track down wayward kites.  Amir is also somewhat jealous of Hassanís ability to stand his ground, even defending Amirís honor against local Pashtun bully Aseef.  Ironically, it is an act of revenge by Aseef and Amirís guilt over the incident that destroys that friendship.

Now, decades later, Amir has a chance to make things right, but will he lose his nerve thinking about all he has and all he stands to lose?

The Kite Runner is one of those novels that reads like a true story.  It made me wonder how much of the novel was actually based on the author's life experiences.  The book reveals the Afghani culture to Americans like myself who are not entirely aware of all the Afghani customs, sayings, music, etc.  I love learning new things about different cultures and The Kite Runner was a truly enlightening experience.  Through Amir, Khaled Hosseini expresses his own feelings about his country and his people, his coming to America and adjusting to American life, the political unrest in his homeland and more in a way that enlightens the reader and entertains them as well.

I found the main theme of guilt and all the ways it can destroy people's lives quite an interesting concept.  We see the ways in which Amir's guilt over his mother's death during his birth strained his relationship with his father.  We witnessed guilt destroy Amirís friendship with Hassan.  Guilt is somewhat of a tangible thing in this book...a secondary character in the novel.  But Khaled Hosseini makes it very clear that, although guilt can be an all-pervading thing, there is always such a thing as redemption.  This is a very important concept and one that too many people overlook in their daily lives.  The road to redemption for Amir is a tough one, but no one ever said life was easy...or fair for that matter.

I still love this line from the movie and am so happy that it was virtually quoted word for word from the book: ďThere is only one sin, only one. And that is theft. Every other sin is a variation of theft... When you kill a man, you steal a life. You steal his wife's right to a husband, rob his children of a father. When you tell a lie, you steal someone's right to the truth. When you cheat, you steal the right to fairness.Ē  There is just so much truth to the words spoken to a young Amir by his father and I believe that Amir comes to understand their true meaning eventually, despite having completely misinterpreting them as a young boy.

It's hard to believe that The Kite Runner is Khaled Hosseini's first novel, but easy to see how it became a bestseller.  Hosseini is a gifted storyteller and his tale imparts a lesson in Afghani history, pride and customs, life lessons in the ideas of guilt and redemption, lessons in love of family, country and friends and more.  There are some very adult themes in this novel and situations that will make the hardest of hearts gasp in sadness.  That's another very important aspect of Hosseini's talent - the ability to make the reader feel for his main characters and those who are secondary and quickly touched upon.  He tugs at the heartstrings and makes the reader feel.

The Kite Runner was an incredibly enriching and entertaining read.  I can't wait to check out more works from this author!


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