The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Important Characters: (in order of their appearance in the story)
Amir: The narrator of the story. He is a rich ‘Pashtun’.
Baba: Amir’s father.
Hassan: Amir’s servant and best friend. He belongs to the Hazara community which ranks as the lowest in the Afghan social hierarchy.
Ali: Hassan’s polio crippled father who serves Baba faithfully for over 40 years.
Assef: The local bully. He is portrayed as inhumanly cruel and heartless.
Rahim Khan: Amir’s mentor. He encourages him to follow his heart and write stories, much against the wishes of his father.
Soraya: Amir’s wife.
Sohrab: Hassan’s son, who is later adopted by Amir.
The Kite Runner is a powerful story, with its first half set in the 1970’s, when Afghanistan was a beautiful and unblemished picture of picturesque valleys, flowers, sprawling white mansions and inhabitants with childlike innocence and love for each other. However, the second half of the book portrays a different Afghanistan, torn apart by wars, physical torture, religious hatred, poverty and misery.
The novel derives its name from the Afghan custom of doing battle with kites. The kites also symbolize the delicate strings of childhood friendship.
"A devastating, masterful and painfully honest story…."
The first half of the book revolves around the beautiful nuances of the friendship between Amir and Hassan, and the brotherly affection they share. However, Amir is slightly envious of Hassan’s natural courage and the special place he holds in Baba’s heart.
In order to prove to his father that he had the makings of a man and to gain his approval, Amir attempts to win the local kite flying tournament and succeeds too. But neither of the boys could foresee what would happen to Hassan on the afternoon of the tournament, which was to shatter their lives forever….
Years later, when Amir learns that a childhood mentor, Rahim Khan, is ailing back home, he returns to Afghanistan from America, to discover that his relationship with Hassan had been deeper than he had realized. Hassan had been his half brother. This leads him on a hazardous journey to rescue and adopt Hassan's son, Sohrab, whose father the Taliban had executed.
Despite its grimmer episodes, the novel ends with a note of optimism about Afghanistan's future, an optimism that the whole world would prefer to see unspoiled.
Inshallah, as the Afghans say: If God wills.
To read or not to read….
The story has an excellent narrative and a well woven plot, with no loose ends. Each character in the story, small or big, has been aptly etched to contribute significantly to the main plot of the story.
Although the book can sometimes be melodramatic and garrulous, it provides an extraordinary perspective on the struggles of a country that has been far too long ignored or misunderstood.
A must read.
Rating: * * * * (4/5)
Precautions: Keep an abundant supply of tissues in hand. To wipe your tears, of course!