Friday, February 2, 2007

Kite Runner - Book Review

Kite Runner

Author : Khaled Hosseini.

Once in while you come across a story that stays imprinted in your mind long after you have read it. Kite Runner brings out the various complexities of human emotions that pull a string in your heart. It’s a story about friendship. It’s a story about human relationships. It’s a story about courage in the face of adversities and above all a story about guilt and redemption.

Amir, the protagonist of the novel lives in San Francisco and is remembering his childhood in Kabul in the 1970s. The story begins in pre-civil war Afghanistan where his most cherished memories were those of his friendship with his Hazara (a Mongol race in Afghanistan) servant boy Hassan. Amir discovers he has a skill for literature while narrating the stories that he makes up to Hassan, during their times spent together. A trait he has inherited from his deceased mother. However this displeases his father who wants him to be manlier. His Baba (father) realizes that Amir is more or less a coward. He notices that even while playing with the neighborhood boys Amir constantly requires Hassan to save his skin.

When Amir composes his first story his father takes absolutely no interest in it. Hoever he finds in Rahim Khan, Baba’s friend, a mentor and a friend. Amir on his part starts feeling insecure and begins to resent Hassan, whom Baba seems to love as much as himself if not more. Hassan too is motherless as his mother Sanouber, a local beauty, had run off with a group of gypsies abandoning him and his father Ali.

The chief tormentor of both Hassan and Amir is Aseef, an older boy in the same neighbourhood. Assef is a sociopath and take sadistic pleasure in tormenting Hazaras whom he considers to be an inferior race. On one such occasion of bullying by Aseef, Hassan stands up to him. Hassan in doing so saves both himself and Amir from certain physical harm as the bully is forced to back down. But not before an enraged Aseef vows revenge on Hassan.

The fateful day comes during the day of the Kite-Fights, a traditional sport in Afghanistan. On that day several kite flyers gather at a large ground, cheered on by the whole neighborhood, and try to cut each others kite in their flight. Each flyer has a designated Kite-Runner who gets the fallen kites and can keep it as a trophy with the last fallen kite being the most prestigious. Amir chooses Hassan as his Kite-Runner due to his ability to always know where the kite would land. Amir wins the contest and gains respect in the eyes of his father. To complete the joy he sends Hassan to get the last fallen kite.

When Hassan does not return even after the normally required time Amir goes in search of him. He finds Hassan trapped by Aseef and two henchmen. Instead going to his help Amir choses to hide and watch the whole gruesome act that follows. Hassan is brutalized and sexually abused. When Amir meets up with Hassan again he acts as if nothing has happened and also as is he doesn’t know anything.

However Amir is racked by guilt and he thinks that the solution would be to get rid of Hassan from his house. He frames an innocent Hassan with a crime he has not committed. Even though his Baba refuses to send them out, Hassan and Ali leave on their own.

However fate isn’t too kind to Amir either. He and his Baba are forced to flee from Afghanistan and seek asylum in the US. There Amir begins his career as a writer. There he finds the love of his life Soraya and marries her right before his Baba passes away. All the while Amir suffers from the guilt of what he had done to Hassan.

Then one day he gets a letter from Rahim Khan asking him to come to Pakistan to meet him. He tells him what has happened of Hassan and gives him a chance at redemption. What has happened of Hassan? Will Amir be able to redeem himself of his guilt? The answers to these form the rest of the story.

Kite Runner is an excellent novel by a debutant writer. You never feel that it is a debut effort. The narrative flows seamlessly and book is definitely a page turner. The book actually transports you to Afghanistan and gives you a bird’s eye view of the political upheavals in the country over 3 decades. From the first coup of the nation, to the soviet invasion, to the Taliban. It opens a window into the race and class conflicts between the Pushtuns and the Hazaras. It opens up the erstwhile unknown (at least to me) culture and traditions of Afghanistan.

The overwhelming theme of the book is guilt and redemption. Almost all the characters are seen suffering from guilt and attempts at redemption in one way or the other. Amir suffers the guilt of what he had done to Hassan. Baba suffers the guilt of betraying his friend. Even Rahim Khan, Sanouber and Soraya all suffer from guilt in one form or the other and all of them find redemption in one way or the other. The only two character set in white and black are Hassan and Aseef respectively. The rest are all colored in grey which lends natural authenticity them.

Both political and personal conflicts run parallel in the novel. This is very significant as one usually affects the other. The novel is also about peace and how we destroy whatever is precious to us in trying to attain it.

Overall, it’s a wonderful first attempt by a debutant writer. It is a must read as it will amaze you with its simplicity, mesmerize you with its plot and definitely will tug a string somewhere in your heart with the various human emotions that are played out.

Rating: 4.5/5

1 comment:

Unknown said...

This sounds like a wonderful book, I'll look out for it next time I go book shopping. Thanks for the recommendation.