Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Kite Runner

The Kite Runner
© 2003 Khaled Hosseini
400 pages


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The Kite Runner is a stirring story of betrayal and redemption set in Afghanistan as the country is destroyed through revolution, war, and the takeover by Taliban militias.  The novel rests on the relationship between Amir and Hassan, two young boys growing up together in the same household -- but separated by class.  Although theirs is a brotherly friendship, it is put to the test by intense social pressure, Amir's own fears, and the outbreak of war.  As the novel progresses, emotional and physical distance grows between the boys;  Amir, burdened by the shame of not defending his friend as he should when horror lashes out, pushes Hassan away, and eventually Amir and his father emigrate to the United States to flee the destruction of Afghanistan.  Fifteen+ years later, however, when Amir's father dies, he is called back to Afghanistan to visit an ailing friend of the family, There, in the rubble of his hometown, he must find the courage to atone for the selfishness and cowardice of youth. Once he hid before bullies and allowed others to be beaten for his sake; now he steals into the center of Taliban power to beard the lions in their den and rescue an innocent child.  The endgame has the kind of poetic justice found only in fiction,  with the same monster who tormented Amir and Hassan when they were all boys returning as the chief Talib. However improbable it is in real life, it succeeds wonderfully as a story, delivering the full impact of how Amir has changed since leaving Afghanistan. Few people get to fight their childhood memories so directly, and  it's utterly satisfying -- not the dispatch of the villain, but Amir's trial by fire. For most of the book, he is a weak character who shies away from responsibility, and  the ending chapters are a gauntlet that makes him honorable.  Although most of the book is tragic, such is made good by the finale.


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