Kite Runner - by Khaled Hosseini

"I identified so closely with a boy from the other side of the world"

       The Kite Runner is a striking story of the universal nature of relationships between generations of men. A phenomenal work of literature and a bestseller; it demonstrates excellent use of the tools of storytelling.  Hosseini’s brilliant use of archetypes is shown in Amir’s journey, with almost every character fulfilling a role of a specific archetypal character, with Baba, Rahim Khan, and Hassan as mentors. Using these archetypes, Hosseini creates a story that could be translated and easily understood across all the cultures of the world.
            It’s the plot, too, that gets you. It’s brilliant, in my opinion, and is flawlessly archetypal while at the same time feeling so real and so raw that it seems like this story is nothing short of a memoir. The story really begins with the destruction of Hassan’s childhood in the form of an extremely cruel action against him. Amir, facing his demons of self-doubt and weakness, witnesses this horrible incident but keeps it secret. He does nothing to help his friend, and therefore assumes his life as a guilt-ridden soul running from the past. Hassan subsequently is forced out of his life, and the plot is pushed forward with Amir’s blending into a new life, with beautifully described events in Afghan history occurring in the background and acting as a setting.

         Insights into the culture of Afghanis, and even Afghani-Americans, are numerous in the novel and give credence to the fact that Hosseini knows what he’s talking about, probably through experience. It is in this passage of the book that events start to slow down; the doldrums in this part of the book are sure to tick off some critics somewhere, but they definitely do not take away any of the novel’s fire. Anyway, years pass, and Amir lives on, always carrying the guilt in his mind, until a chance comes to redeem himself -  a chance offered by, incidentally, none other than his archetypal mentor Rahim Khan. Redemption involves a trek back into the war torn land of Afghanistan and confrontations with the demons of Amir’s past. The plot twists surrounding this journey for redemption themselves make the book a must-read, if not an instant classic.

        I will admit, I never would’ve thought that this book was fictional if it hadn’t been for the label on the back. The story, told from first person, seems so real, so raw. The fact that I identified so closely with Amir surprised me, to be honest. It seems like Afghanis and other residents of that side of the world are the polar opposites of Americans, and here’s where I really give credit to Hosseini. He bridged that gap, creating a story that builds a bridge over the chasm between Americans and Middle Easterners, almost flawlessly. With my 11th grade knowledge of and pure fascination with the psychological aspects of literature, I’ve come to believe that it was Hosseini’s use of archetypes that did the trick, but who knows? It could just have easily been the descriptions he gives, simply the insights into Afghan culture. After reading this, I can honestly say that I don’t feel like just an ignorant American teenager anymore. People everywhere are the same and the core feelings of humanity are universal. If sparking this revelation in people is Mr. Hosseini’s intention, his purpose for writing the story, he accomplishes it brilliantly.

"The relationship of two boys in war torn Afghanistan"

       Khaled Hosseini’s novel vividly describes the lives of two young boys, Amir and Hassan, growing up in Afghanistan.  Amir and Hassan are best friends even though Amir, a Pashtun, is the son of a wealthy Afghani and Hassan, a Hazara, is one of the family’s servants.  This difference in both socioeconomic standings and ethnicity shows how even two people with extremely different backgrounds can overcome adversity and be good friends. 

        Hassan and Amir solidified their friendship with their kite running.  Amir would always fly the kite and get all of the glory if they won while Hassan would chase after the kites and get them for Amir.  In this way, the kite can symbolize Hassan and Amir’s relationship.  Hassan is always defending Amir and standing up to others while Amir shrinks away when faced with any sort of confrontation.  Amir at times seems jealous of Hassan, not only because of his ability to confront others, but also because Hassan embodies many qualities that his father, Baba, applauds. 

        Amir is always trying to please his father.  Once he sees that his father and Hassan seem to have a special connection, he gets even more jealous of him.  During one pivotal moment in the novel Amir fails to save Hassan from Assef, the neighborhood bully.  Amir regrets this failure to act and lives in guilt for many years to come.

        Not only does Hosseini include internal conflicts between Amir and Hassan, he also includes background information about Afghanistan’s history and the political changes that occur during Amir’s lifetime.  At first, Amir and his family are living a happy peaceful life.  Later he and his father flee the country to go to America when the Taliban start to take over.  As an adult, Amir returns to Afghanistan and sees the toll that the Taliban presence has taken on the country.  Hosseini, who was born and raised in Afghanistan before moving to America, says that he wrote Kite Runner so that people would understand that before the Soviet war the Afghani’s were living in peace.

        As Amir and Baba try to make a living for themselves in America by working in flea markets, their relationship improves. At a flee market Amir meets the love of his life, Soraya.  Amir falls in love and marries, then eventually returns to Afghanistan to see an old family friend who is dying.  While on this visit he learns shocking news about Hassan and his son, Sohrab.   Amir begins a quest to help his old friend in an effort to redeem himself after his wrongdoings to Hassan. The novel ends with a brilliant climax which circles cleverly back to the art of kite running.

        I would certainly recommend this book to others. I found it particularly interesting because it is so unlike anything that I have ever read.  Hosseini’s style of writing perfectly captures the characters’ emotions and paints a clear and precise picture of  unfolding events.  In the end, I believe that Hosseini succeeded in what he intended to do, which was to write a novel that changed the way people in the west  thought about Afghanistan.

    - Lindsay R.

"not just a great book but a great experience"

            The Kite Runner is the story of one man's betrayal and how he spends a life time trying to overcome the guilt that shadows him. The novel centers around the friendship of the son of a rich Afghan and his servant. It is set in Afghanistan during the 1970’s when Russia invaded the country. This is not one of those books that are hard to get into and slow moving. As soon as you open to the first page the story hits the ground running.  It was difficult for me to put the book down.
     Parts of the book offer no censorship and can be quite shocking at times but it only makes the story more powerful and effective. Not only is the novel great entertainment but it teaches morals and expands your cultural horizons. The book hits home with pretty much every emotion a person can feel and really pulls you into the action.  When I finish a great book I always think, “Wow, that is a great book,” but when I finished The Kite Runner I thought, “Wow, that was a great experience.” Khaled Hosseini gives his readers a whole different side of life. He takes us outside our easy life in America and portrays a shockingly honest take on what the Afghani people have been through to fight for freedom. He personifies America’s enemy in a completely different light other than terrorism.

    - Maggie M

"Descriptions of the war-ravaged country contrast with the earlier happy friendship."

       In this book Khaled Hosseini writes about the personal struggles and triumphs of a child who grows up in the politically divided regions of Afghanistan. His purpose, however, runs much deeper than a story about a child growing up in painfully harsh conditions. The connection of the narrator, Amir, to the son of his father’s servant is the true theme. The young servant, Hassan, lives with his crippled father in a shack outside the established home of Amir and his wealthy father, Baba. Both children grow up without a mother; they even nursed from the same woman as babies. The kite is a symbol of the fragile friendship the two boys have. You see, these two children could not grow up together as equals. Amir’s father was a businessman, Hassan’s was a servant. Hassan assumed a dog-like loyalty to Amir over the years. Hassan knows he is not of the same quality as Amir, but his love for his companion runs deep. He  is always there to protect Amir from harm, but the tragedy in the book strikes later when Amir cannot return the favor.

            Hosseini’s book, in my opinion, does a great job of focusing on this small personal plot and does not get too tied up with all of the politics and war at the time. I think this is important because the young narrator is not thinking about Russian forces invading; he is thinking about taking a hike with Hassan in the afternoon. Later, as Amir grows older and gains a better perception of the world surrounding him, Hosseini brings in more and more about the conditions of Afghanistan. To me, the descriptions of the war-ravaged country brought a very somber and depressing tone to the book. This is a clear contrast with the earlier parts of the story, which describe the happy friendship between Amir and Hassan. As you read deeper into the book, the shift in the country seems to take place without your noticing it. Later, as the narrator looks back, he seems to feel the same way. Everything seems to happen so quickly and unexpectedly. Hosseini does a great job in recreating the situation surrounding Afghans of that time period.

            I believe this book was written by Khaled Hosseini to show the obstacles people had to overcome in that environment. You were born to be somebody in those days, and you had to be willing to change things to better yourself. If you were born poor, you had to work like hell to raise yourself out of poverty. The characters in this book connect with you on an emotional level. Hosseini tugs at your heartstrings in this story of perseverance, and he aims to make people better by reading it. This is a book I would absolutely recommend to other serious readers.

    - Walker K.