"The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini is one of the rare books that leave a mark on you long after you are finished. It is the kind of book you rush to suggest to friends and sing the praises of any time the topic of fiction literature comes up. It has everything -- tragedy, comedy, friendship, love, irony, literary mentions, heroes, villains and the complex in-betweens that are average human lives. It would be impossible for me to review this book without simply gushing about it, so consider yourself forewarned.
Khaled Hosseini made his literary debut with this book. Since that time, it has been slammed, revered, adapted for film and enjoyed by countless readers. The topic matter is controversial, but not as bad as some critics would have you believe.
"The Kite Runner" is written from the perspective of Amir -- a Pashtun Afghan who lost his mother at birth. Amir has a love of literature that he apparently got from his mother, but that seems to disgust his father. His father is a seemingly heroic figure. He is the patron of the needy and the defender of the victim. However, he is also very distant with Amir, something that is later explained, but that I will not give away here. His relationship with his father seems to shape his decisions, though one other relationship is much more important, that which he has with his Hazara servant.
Hassan is a boy who was born not long after Amir. He is a servant who lives in a hut behind Amir's house, but who is much beloved by Amir's father. Amir loves him too, but is too ruled by his own demons to see this love for what it is. He makes a huge mistake in dealing with Hassan, allowing a tragedy to befall him. This mistake colors the rest of Amir's life. It is a demon that haunts him. Hassan appears to handle his misfortune better than Amir handles his own cowardice.
Later in "The Kite Runner," perhaps the most important character emerges in a young boy who ties Amir and Hassan together again. His name is Sohrab. The book is riddled with the tragedy of war torn Afghanistan. However, the tragedy reaches a crescendo that is entirely unexpected with this boy. There is hope beyond it, as in any good novel, but the shock of it was like being punched in the stomach. That is no mean feat given that more than three-quarters of the emotion-laden novel was already consumed by then.
There is a certain level of horror present in "The Kite Runner." There is one very bad man in particular that raised the hackles of many a critic. Who or what does this man represent? How rude to have him represent Afghanistan or the Taliban. The truth of the matter is that this bad man does not represent Afghanistan or the Taliban, at least to my mind. In fact, Afghanistan is spoken of quite lovingly in "The Kite Runner." The Taliban are not, of course, but they are not represented by this one horrible man. What he represents to this reader is the monster of war that targets children. Let's face it; war is cruel to children. They are already helpless. In any country, in any war, there are wolves that descend on the children. Hosseini created one that is gruesome to the last, but who is not unrealistic and only shows that bad men lurk in every society waiting for chaos to emerge and allow them to take their thrones.