There are books that tenderly embrace your heart; that leave behind a pleasant whisper as a reminder of their presence. The Kite Runner is not that book. It will break your heart into a million tiny pieces, and yet, will leave you somehow more whole for having read it.
The story is about Amir and Hassan, whose friendship transcends the social constructs of class and caste. In pre-war Afghanistan, Amir is the rich son of a rich father, and Hassan, from a lower caste, is the son of the servant of Amir’s father. There is something exquisitely pure about their brotherhood. Amir intends to win the local kite-fighting tournament, which he hopes will put him on a pedestal as high as the one Hassan has in his father’s eyes. Amir wins the tournament and asks Hassan to bring him the losing kite as a trophy. It is here that Amir commits an act of betrayal towards Hassan, and the guilt haunts him for the rest of his life. Amir and his father flee Afghanistan for America when the Soviets take over. As Amir and his father build a new life in California, Kabul lands into the hands of the Taliban which rules with violence. Amir grows up, gets married and begins his career, but the shadow of his guilt never vanishes. That is why, when a call from his past takes him back to the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, he puts his heart into relentlessly searching for his last chance at redemption.
We find ourselves rooting for Amir, for him to win, to live, to love, and to be forgiven. With every twist and turn in his life, Amir progressively becomes more human, seems more like flesh and bones. Through Amir’s mistakes, his pain and his triumphs, we find pieces of our own lives in his story.
Today, Afghanistan brings to mind the violence of gunshots, the fear inducing image of bearded men wielding heavy arms. But this is not the Afghanistan we find in The Kite Runner. Khaled Hosseini has painted the Afghanistan of Amir’s childhood with such vibrant colours, we can almost reach out and touch the pomegranate tree that Amir and Hassan would climb, we can catch the fragrance of Amir’s favourite sour cherry marmalades. The city of Kabul is living, breathing and dynamic through the monarchy, the republic, the Soviet invasion and the Taliban rule. There isn’t a single dull moment in the story.
The prose is simple yet moving, and the story is told with ample clarity for the changes in scenery and time to be glided over quite smoothly. It often feels like a conversation with an old friend, like returning to familiar territory unvisited for long.
Khaled Hosseini has written a timeless masterpiece. What started as a short story about two boys flying kites in Kabul, eventually became a heart wrenching tale of betrayal and redemption.
At its heart, The Kite Runner is a story of hope. Through the heartbreak, the tears and the love, our hope for a better and brighter future is sustained. Even when the bullies seemed too powerful, when the odds appeared too large to beat, humanity came through and stood undefeated. And that, perhaps, is the biggest accomplishment of the book. Despite all odds, Amir has the audacity to hope, and, in turn, so do we.