The Kite Runner is without a doubt one of the best books I’ve read for my challenge so far. Although I’ve enjoyed almost every novel, short story, play, and poetry I’ve come across, not many have stood out the way this novel by Khaled Hosseini did. A lot of the books I’ve read are heavy in tone and subject matter, and Hosseini’s is no exception. But his gorgeous prose and earnest narrator elevate it to a level which truly captivates you.
The story focuses on Amir: a young boy growing up in Afghanistan with his father and their faithful servants Ali and Hassan, before the Soviet–Afghan War. Amir’s first-person narration goes a long way in drawing you into the heart of his story, and adding a further level of poignancy is the engagement of a child’s perspective. Amir as narrator may be an adult reflecting on his past, but the childlike sense of wonder, horror, and bewilderment at all the joys and trauma of his childhood is told with the clarity of a child’s directness.
This book is almost 20 years old, and I had heard of it before, primarily because of the movie adaptation, which was released in 2007. I would love to watch the movie now, but I’m glad I read the book first. Even though I anticipated certain aspects of the story, and their revelation didn’t come as a surprise, the way Hosseini tells the story is so heartfelt and heartbreaking, I never considered any of it to be paint-by-numbers, but I’m glad my first encounter of these characters was on the page. The gorgeous prose evokes not only the many emotions whirling through Amir, but also the sights and sounds of Kabul. Every experience – whether it’s reading under a pomegranate tree or drinking black tea and cardamom for a hangover cure – is wrought with loving detail.
And the title is not futile or contrived. Kite running links so many of the characters, it links past and present, and it is the very activity which forms the site of so many significant moments in the book. Amir and his precious yet volatile friendship with Hassan is the axis around which much of the plot pivots; but every other character is inserted into the story with care and grace. Fleeting encounters and ultimate fates are alluded to with a few simple yet palpable words. One of my favourites was between Soraya (Amir’s wife) and her father. In one brief but beautiful moment, Hosseini relays how the relationship between father and daughter grows, sending actual goosebumps up my arm. But the book didn’t just give me goosebumps. This book had me choking up constantly and by the end I had tears streaming down my cheeks, perhaps also because I was sad that such a beautiful story had to end.