The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini // Beautiful, haunting, and heartbreaking

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The Kite Runner

by Khaled Hosseini

Paperback, 371 pages

Published May 1st 2004 by Riverhead Books

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“It may be unfair, but what happens in a few days, sometimes even a single day, can change the course of a whole lifetime.” 

Amir is the son of a wealthy Kabul merchant, a member of the ruling caste of Pashtuns. Hassan, his servant and constant companion, is a Hazara, a despised and impoverished caste. Their uncommon bond is torn by Amir’s choice to abandon his friend amidst the increasing ethnic, religious, and political tensions of the dying years of the Afghan monarchy, wrenching them far apart. But so strong is the bond between the two boys that Amir journeys back to a distant world, to try to right past wrongs against the only true friend he ever had.

The unforgettable, heartbreaking story of the unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father’s servant, The Kite Runner is a beautifully crafted novel set in a country that is in the process of being destroyed. It is about the power of reading, the price of betrayal, and the possibility of redemption; and an exploration of the power of fathers over sons—their love, their sacrifices, their lies.

A sweeping story of family, love, and friendship told against the devastating backdrop of the history of Afghanistan over the last thirty years, The Kite Runner is an unusual and powerful novel that has become a beloved, one-of-a-kind classic.

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Have you ever read a book that from the first word you just know that it’s going to tear your heart into pieces?

The Kite Runner is the book for me. From the first sentence, the first paragraph, I know this book wouldn’t be an easy read for me. But I have no idea what a hard read this is, how the story and characters will wrap their words around my heart and mind. And the impact it will give.

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“I opened my mouth, almost said something. Almost. The rest of my life might have turned out differently if I had. But I didn’t.”

The Kite Runner is revolves around the relationship of Amir and Hassan, his servant’s son. Our main character, Amir, is not likeable. He’s petty, jealous, and spoiled. But at the same time, that’s the way he’s been raised. His characterization are very fleshed out, his feelings and jealousy are valid seeing how much his father loved and connected with Hassan more than him. Later, he’s not a coward, nor he was a bad person. He was just a kid, who was scared of Assef doing the same thing to him, of Hassan being disappointed in him for not helping, and for losing Baba’s love and respect forever. He hated himself for it, and in his hatred, he ruined everything. He always knew he was wrong, but in this knowledge, he also hated himself more. I think his characterization is really well done and complex, just how it should be.

Meanwhile, Hassan is the purest soul I’ve ever read. He did his job without complaint, without any hint jealousy towards Amir. He bore others scorn and prejudice for his ethnicity and for his father’s defect gracefully. He knew Amir is not wholly good (during the “will you eat dirt for me” scene, Amir mentioned that sometimes he saw the other side of Hassan and Hassan ended up testing him), he knew Amir knew. Yet not once did he resent him, or life in that matter. When seeing the polaroid, even Amir remarked how Hassan’s face is like someone who’s “life at been good at”. His story is tragic, yet he bore it really well it made me wonder and ache at the same time. I would do anything to ensure his happiness. It made me wonder whether there are really people who are this good in this world, how do they bear it, and how unfair this world actually is if it’s true.

Other characters seem to play a supporting role, but in the end each and everyone of them tied together with the relationship of Amir and Hassan. Baba, the source of conflict between Amir and Hassan, whether they realized it or not. Assef, who makes the story a full circle. Rahim Khan, who tried to do the best and bridging them all. Even Soraya, who represents connection towards Afghanistan. In a way, this book is a character study as each of them are extremely well written and fleshed out. We get a connection and grown to care about them.

The tone of this book is thick with nostalgia and regret andhe author managed to give this sepia-toned storytelling quality that makes it very clear that this happened in the past. It works really well for the story as this is a book about regret and setting things right. But it also works in highlighting the difference between the present and past Afghanistan, the one Amir knew and left behind, and the one he returned to.

This is the first book I’ve read that set in Afghanistan and offers an insight into Afghan cultures and societal customs, both in the past era before the war, and the present. It’s fascinating to learn about its custom and social norms, both the good and the bad, and how much of it are based from religious values. Not only highlight the vibrant market and life in Kabul, as well as the sense of kinship between all Afghans, this book also showed the other side of Afghan: the racial and religious tension. This way, it shows the richness of the city and humanizes it; it wasn’t perfect, but it was beautiful.

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“War doesn’t negate decency. It demands it, even more than in times of peace.”

In the foreword, the author mentioned how many people sent him letters and tell him that his books gave faces to Afghanistan, make them feel more, understand more about the issue. This is true for me. Indonesia is a majority muslim country, the largest in the world, so issues in the middle east, Palestine, and Afghanistan are more important compared to western ones in some sense. Despite the kinship many people felt, they are still distant countries, nameless faces. While reading this book, I wonder how many people had to went through what Amir and Hassan went through: prejudice, scorn, running from the only homes they know, only to come back and found it destroyed, and many more. How many Amir and Babas, who had to leave everything behind and start over in a foreign country with different customs and language? How many Hassan, who was scorned and killed because who he were? How many Sorayas, who has her own dreams but stifled, scorned, and considered a failure for not having a child, in the name of tradition? And how many Sohrabs, who lost their parents and abused with their caretakers can’t do anything about it, because the consequences are worse? As such is a power of stories, so never underestimate or look down on any kind of stories.

The Kite Runner is one of a kind book. It showed the impact of war, the children who lost their childhood, family that got separated, the abuse, and leaving everything you know. But it also gives an insight on Afghanistan before war, what happened in between and the slow realization and process that steeps into the life of the people. At its heart though, this book is about regret, redemption, and love. All kinds of love: the familial, the romantic, the platonic, the one filled with regret and hatred, the patriotic, and more. The characters are extremely well written and this book will tugs at your heartstrings. It’s a powerful, beautiful and haunting story, one that I would never regret that I read.

“For you, a thousand times over”

tasya


12 thoughts on “The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini // Beautiful, haunting, and heartbreaking

  1. This was an optional book for me to read back in high school but I never picked it up… always wondered about it! Thanks for the review, may have to try it out in the future!

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  2. This is such a beautiful review, Tasya. I’ve been interested in this book ever since some of my friends read it for a literature class in my high school that I had taken with a different teacher, so The Kite Runner was not on the curriculum. It sounds so heartbreaking though! Then again, I am a sucker for a sad story.

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