November 02, 2005

The Kite Runner

The novel, The Kite Runner (2003) by Khaled Hosseini is perhaps one of the best fiction novels to come out of the US in the last five years. It's amazing to think that this is the debut novel of a Bay Area doctor. It's haunting and the memory of the heart-wrenching story remains with the reader even after the last page has been put down. To quote a fellow blogger who reviewed it, the Kite Runner "sucks you in, chews your insides, and spits you out after." Highly, highly recommended!

I hate dishing out synopsis for the fact that many others have been writing them and regurgitating them again and again. So here's the jist from written by Gisele Toueg:

The Kite Runner follows the story of Amir, the privileged son of a wealthy businessman in Kabul, and Hassan, the son of Amir's father's servant. As children in the relatively stable Afghanistan of the early 1970s, the boys are inseparable. They spend idyllic days running kites and telling stories of mystical places and powerful warriors until an unspeakable event changes the nature of their relationship forever, and eventually cements their bond in ways neither boy could have ever predicted. Even after Amir and his father flee to America, Amir remains haunted by his cowardly actions and disloyalty. In part, it is these demons and the sometimes impossible quest for forgiveness that bring him back to his war-torn native land after it comes under Taliban rule. ("...I wondered if that was how forgiveness budded, not with the fanfare of epiphany, but with pain gathering its things, packing up, and slipping away unannounced in the middle of the night.")

The novel is both educational (in the sense that it brings to light in clear and simple terms the nuances of Afghani life, honor, prejudices and customs), and emotional that you will be sucked into the story forgetting that this is fiction and not a memoir. I have learned more about Afghanistan and the Afghan diaspora here than in CNN or BBC. You will learn that Pashtuns look down on Hazaras, that lineage and honor is more valued than money, or the countless food Afghanis eat which is altogether similar to Indian food (kabobs, samosas, tandoori-baked naan bread, etc.)

And this is the first novel that made me cry- most probably because of the parallelism of the fate of Baba's dad with my own. But anyone who reads this will probably cry too. You will feel too the emotional turmoil of Amir, the reserved love of Baba, the braveness of Hassan and the wickedness of Affez. All the characters have been well fleshed out with lots of multilayering and character change. From the insecure yet concerned Amir to his strict yet noble father, Baba, to Amir's friend Hassan whose unwavering loyalty and friendship is unbelievable, and to Farid who at first detests Amir but became his friend in the process. For that alone, you will enjoy the book immensely.

The book rarely used high falluting words or swathes of philosophical reveries just to fill out the pages. Rather, the author created daily experiences and anecdotes so vivid and fresh that one will forget that this is not autobiographical (although Hosseini admitted that many of the experiences are in one way or another was adapted from his own and from his relatives' stories). And Hosseini's description of the Afghanistan of yesteryears is so vivid that one can smell the lamb kebobs wafting along cramped bazaar alleyways or the sweet taste of pomegranates from the sun-drenched hill where Amir and Hassan once played. This is the first book that made me appreciate the richness and gentleness of pre-Taliban Afghanistan.

Now, The Kite Runner has become one of my all-time favorite novels. I hope it will be yours too.

Language 4*/5*
Writing Skill 5*/5*
Flow 5*/5*

Story 3.5*/5*


Anonymous said...

You've got to be kidding! The Kite Runner is one of the worst books ever written. The pages are filled with grammatical errors. The writing style is pedestrian and juvenile. The characters are two-dimensional. The dialogue is flat. This is an awful, awful book.

sam_okabe said...

I seldom reply to comments online since I consider my time so precious I couldn't afford wasting it to just random ordinary critics. But, I find it imperative to break my tradition now that The Kite Runner is being blasphemed.

Friend, heard of poetic license? Khaled Hosseini has that while you don't. That sums up it all. You've got to sit and learn from him a lesson or two. And another thing, "the Kite Runner has its beauty which beauty doesn't even know."

Tashakor!!! ;)