Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Kite Runner

Two weeks ago, during the most crucial time when I should have been revising for my college finals, I was turning the pages of this novel, literally hooked by the thing called suspense.

It's not just suspense too. Khaled Hosseini has this gift of writing about war-torn Afghanistan, ethnic discrimination, female oppression, violence and personal tragedies in the most beautiful way. His work is like a poetry of tragedies and triumphs, realistic because bad things happen and good things transpire too. He shows that life is not a black or white area of misfortunes or luck, but a gray area intertwining the good and bad events in a character's life. Ultimately, whether tragedy or victory has the upper hand in life is up to the way one takes control of the things that happen in it.

In The Kite Runner, Amir lives a privileged life in a mansion in Kabul with his father, who is a wealthy merchant. Ali is the servant of the house, and Hassan is Ali's son. Because Amir and Hassan grow up together, they are each other's playmates. And really, they are each other's best friends too. However, Amir will never admit to that because Hassan is only a servant's son and a Hazara, an ethnic group many Pashtuns will regard as inferior to them. Hassan, on the other hand, is a very loyal, courageous friend who will go to any length for the sake of protecting Amir and his happiness.

This is the story of Amir's guilt that follows him wherever he goes--a result of one fateful event that happens after a local kite-fighting tournament, that ruins Amir and Hassan's friendship, that causes Amir to be haunted by the cowardice and betrayal of his childhood, that changes everything and the lives that could have been for Amir, Hassan and their fathers.

During Amir's teenage years (Hassan and his father having moved out for years), he and his father leave for the United States to escape the Soviet Union invasion in Afghanistan. In America, Amir becomes a grown man. He pursues his passion for writing, marries beautiful Soraya, becomes a successful novelist and is pretty much living the American dream. But even with all the good things that are happening to him, Amir lives without peace in his conscience as he is constantly reminded of what he has let happened to Hassan on the day of the kite-fighting tournament years ago.

Finally, an opportunity arises for Amir to return to Afghanistan, the home he has not seen for many years, to redeem himself. But everything comes at a price. He has to first leave the comfort of his American home before he can make right again the wrongs he has left behind in Kabul.

The Kite Runner is Hosseini's debut novel, but I have read his second work, A Thousand Splendid Sun, a couple years ago. Both are well-deserved international bestsellers. Both are very impactful, and have made Hosseini one of my favorite authors by far. Like his other book, The Kite Runner is full of emotions and moments that made me cry out for the characters as if their pains were my own. It reveals the cruel reality of life not only in a country affected by war, but also of one person warring against himself.

While this story is a sad and tragic one for so many reasons, Hosseini still manages to capture the humor of everyday life in the novel. He portrays the amazing ability of humans to thrive above all the misfortunes of life and still find joy and contentment. For that, he has come out with a stunning novel.

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