Saturday, April 23, 2011

ReView of 'The Kite Runner' by Khaled Hoisseini

Historical Fiction - 371pgs
Riverhead Books (first published 2003)

This friend of mine stood by me in a time of need when I reached out to her.  She saw me go through a really vulnerable struggle.  She recommended that I read "The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini.  I had seen this book around Starbucks when I would go get coffee from there. I always had the impression that it would be such a tragic story that I would probably not be able to stomach it.  Nevertheless, I read this book because she suggested it to me.  Since I know she's such a thoughtful and compassionate person, I thought the book would be a great read, she's recommending it, afterall!  It turned out to be one of the best recommendations in my entire life.

This book has everything.  A father-son relationship.  A father-illegitimate son relationship.  Rich-servant relationship.  Good kids-bad kids relationship.  It takes into account infidelity, death, loss, religion, lies, compassion, rape, redemption, childhood, marriage, war, poverty, prejudice, suicide, tragedy, humanity and even travel.  I was so impressed about how well-rounded this book was and yet it was very specific in its context, about Afghanistan.  I want to mention three things that touched me the most in this book:  the triangle relationship between Hassan, Baba, and Amir, the portrayal of women, and redemption.

I think the most shocking of all moments in the book is when we find out that Baba has an illigitimate child, which we come to know as Hassan - the servants son supposedly.  Hassan is best friends with Amir, Baba's real son, until a horrible event happens that tests their friendship and forever changes the course of their lives.  I won't spoil the story.  In the beginning of the book, though, Baba enlightens Amir about sins.  He says: "Now, no matter what the mullah teaches, there is only one sin, only one.  And that is theft.  Every other sin is a variation of theft." "When you kill a man, you steal a life," Baba said.  "You steal his wife's right to a husband, robs his children of a father. When you tell a lie you steal someone's right to the truth.  When you cheat, you steal the right to fairness.  Do you see?"  This part of the story here echoes through the book.  A wise person always speaks from experience, never mistake it.  I was wondering when I was reading this where it was all coming from, and then throughout the book you realize it's from personal experience.  "A man who takes what's not his to take, be it a life or a loaf... God help him."

I find Baba to be a man of great character, who has his flaws but keeps it straight in his head.  He's a man of honor, of truth.  THEN, it turns out later in the book that he's had an affair with the servant's wife and had an illegitimate child, Hassan.  He hides his truth from everyone and in the end commits what he believes to be the greatest of all sins.  I was in disbelief.  A man teaching his son about sins, but in the end he's committed the biggest of sins.  I think that's what you call a hypocrite.  Neither Amir, nor Hassan ever know this truth.  Amir later finds out from a friend of the family, but Hassan dies before he has a chance to know.  Despite this lie, Baba, is one of the best men I could know.  He became someone respected by the community and kept his family together.  He cherished his real son, and always kept his illegitimate son also very close, treating him as if he was his real son.  One of the most profound moments is when he breaks down because Hassan is leaving the home.  Having one son left, he does everything in his power to do right by him, even if the last thing he does is to make sure he marries appropriately.  To say a little about Hassan and Amir.  Hassan is one of the touching characters in the book.  His humanity creeps up on you when you least expect it.

This child had so many adversities against him racially and otherwise that sometimes I was wondering how he ever went on.  And then he dies in the most unjust and cruel of ways.  I was really touched by his story.  Amir on the other hand, led such a comfortable and protected life; I was even disgusted a little by his jealousy and betrayal on Hassan.  But I understood him a little.  I saw that he wanted to be the bright light in his father's eyes.  I saw that all he wanted was to do what he loved, write.  I saw that he just wanted to be at peace because he knew he wasn't strong enough to deal with the adversities.  He's actions could have been better, but I understand how he did the best he could.

Now, to discuss a little bit about the women.  You have Amir's mother who died giving birth to him. You have the servant's wife who has the child (Hassan) and then abandons the family without even holding her own child before leaving.  Then you have Amir's wife who is one of the sweetest women in the book but has a dark secrete about her past, sexual relations with a boy out of marriage. When I was reading about these women, I realized more and more about how it is a man's world out there.  It is a man's world!  As women, we can do very little right.  I had to admire Amir though, when he still decided to marry his wife even after he heard about the secret.  It didn't sit well with him, but since he could relate, since he had a secret of his own, he could understand her and her wish to move beyond it. That's all I'll really say.  That's all I can really say without judging since I am neither Muslim nor Afghanistani. 

Redemption was one of the strongest themes of the book.  The biggest story of redemption was that of Amir's.  His family friend tells him he wants him to do one more favor for him.  He asks him to go get his nephew from an orphanage, Hassan's son.  Amir hesitates and declines.  His family friend reminds him of what his father used to say about him. "A boy who won't stand up for himself becomes a man who can't stand up to anything."  This fuels Amir to redeem himself for his father, but also for Hassan. He feels guilty for what has happened to Hassan, and he thinks that all of it wouldn't have happened if he would have just helped Hassan that night in the alley.  I felt really touched by this redemption.  It not only affected Amir, Hassan's son, and the people who had passed away, but it brought Amir's wife a son, a son they couldn't have and probably would have adopted anyway.  So this redemption turned out bittersweet.  Baba's redemption had a lot of character. I found it beautiful to see him do one great thing before he died, see his son get married appropriately and surely into a good family.  Sasa's redemption (Hassan's mother) was also really profound.  She had come back to them, and she looked immensely beaten down by life.  But when Hassan accepted her into the household, she gave it her all for her nephew and for the family.  It was beautiful.

This is really, one of my favorite books.  Great novel!

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