Book Review of The Kite Runner

The Kite Runner
The Kite Runner
Author: Khaled Hosseini
Genre: Literature & Fiction
Book Type: Paperback
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I read the Kite Runner because I have heard a lot of great things about it over the years. I was curious to see what all the hubbub was about. I actually listened to it on audio book; the audio book is read by the author and was fairly well done. Overall I thought it was an interesting book and pretty well written.

This book tells the story of Amir, the son of a wealthy businessman in Kabul. We follow Amir through his childhood with close servant/friend Hassan. After a significant brutal event that happens to Hassan, him and Amir are driven apart. As violence increases in Kabul, Amir and his father flee first to Pakistan and then to America. What follows is then a story of Amir and his life in America. Eventually Amir's past comes back to haunt him and he is called back to Pakistan to deal with some unfinished business.

I will say that first of all this isn't a comfortable or happy read; there are a number of heartbreaking and extremely brutal events that happen in this book. It is a decently written look into Afghan culture and into how the political events that happened there affected the citizens of Kabul. The characters are fairly engaging if not likable; Amir is mostly a brat throughout the story...although he kind of redeems himself in the end. Hassan is at times so passive you want to smack him; but maybe that was just me.

There were some things that really struck me with this book. I found it fascinating how similar Afghan culture was to American culture before all of the violence started; in this I mean they had winter break from school (rather than summer), children looked up to the major holidays where they got presents, there were bullies, and Amir strives for the acceptance of his father. The Afghan people described in this book are just like any other people; that is until the Taliban take over.

There were also a number of things I didn't especially enjoy about this book. For example the author gets rather graphic about rape scenes, torture, and beatings; but veers away from describing any tender scenes between husband and wife or family members. This could be a cultural tendency, especially since Amir was raised in the absence of any women. Still it was like the author did his best to emphasis the torture and pain these people went through without really spending much time on the tenderness and love that was also present. It was almost like the author was going for maximum shock value, not a balanced story.

The role of women in this book is fairly truncated; I understand women don't have a ton of pull in Afghan culture and Amir was raised in an absence of women, but it would have been nice to see more women and how the events in Kabul and immigration to America affected them. Also the book was a bit inconsistent both in time-frame and pacing. Amir goes back and forth between present and past often, and at times it is difficult to figure out where in his life timeline you are for the story he is telling. There are also periods in the book where nothing much happens and then periods where things rush past.

Overall I liked the book for the peek it gives you into Afghan culture. I thought the writing was okay, the characters engaging but only marginally likable, and the pacing a bit inconsistent. This is not a feel good book; mostly it is just really depressing how inhumane humanity can get. I would recommend reading this book if you want a better understanding of Afghanistan with characters that are somewhat engaging. I would like to read Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns at some point; it sounds like that book deals more with women in Afghan culture. I also thought that Swallows of Kabul was better written and gave a better look at what life was like under the Taliban; this books kind of misses some of that because Amir is in America for that portion of time. So, if you are more interested in Afghanistan under Taliban rule I would read that book.