“The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini is one of those marvelous books that opens up our hearts and minds.
This book transports us to a very different time in the 1960’s. Amir and Hassan, friends, raised in the same household, but in different worlds. Amir is the son of a wealthy businessman, and Hassan is the son of the servant, Hazara. There may be a difference in the lives they led, but they became fast friends. Amir would learn to read and Hassan would not. Amir would have the most beautiful toys and particularly kites, and Hassan would be able to help Amir play with the toys and run (fly) his kite. Amir was the spolied son, Hassan was the intelligent and intuitive servant’s son. Their lives would intertwine even when separated.
The reader is blown from the last days of Kabul’s monarchy — salad days in which the boys lives’ are occupied with school, welcome snows, American cowboy movies and neighborhood bullies — into the atrocities of the Taliban, which turned the boys’ green playing fields red with blood.
When the Russian army invaded, Amir and his father fled to the United States, California. Amir grew up in a different land, but with the same Afghanistan culture. He and his father became close. Amir married, went to college, all the while wondering what happened to his childhood friend, the one he betrayed.
As time marched on, Amir lost his father to cancer and was summoned to Pakistan to meet with an old family friend. This turns out to be a life renewing event. Amir searches for news of his friend, Hassan. The search takes him back to Afghanistan, to an orphanage, a meeting with a member of the Taliban, a search for his lost city and culture and for a prize he will cherish, for the truth and for the life he regains.
This is a gritty book, the beauty and violence of this country, Afghanistan, comes to life. The customs and food and smells of the city; the desolation of life and the loss of the country to madmen who are running it with only their imagined vulgar needs and wealth in mind that destroys a culture so varied and rich.
This unusually eloquent story is also about the fragile relationship fathers and sons, humans and their gods, men and their countries.
We can imagine we are there, and we can share in the sights, the smells, the utter disregard for human life. But we can never know what these people have lost. A book, I will cherish reading again and again, so will you.
PS: The Kite Runner – the movie is up for release on the 14th of December, 2007. Needless to say, I’ll watch it.