Sunday, February 21, 2010

Book Review - The Kite Runner

The Kite Runner is one of those novels which take you to a different world altogether, where you empathize with characters as they are your best friends. You revel in their happiness, feel their pain, laugh with them, cry with them. And finally, when the novel ends, it’s as if you are parting away from a dear one, knowing fully that you will never meet again. I have cried after watching movies before, but this must be the very first novel which gave me a lump in the throat.

The novel starts in the Kabul of 1960’s, capital of Afghanistan. It is narrated as a first person account by Amir-the protagonist of the story. The initial chapters explore the friendship between Amir and Hassan(some of the best part of the novel) and Amir’s rather uneasy relationship with his father. Amir’s father - who once wrestled a black bear with his bare hands - wants Amir to be more like him, someone who stands up for himself, likes sports and do other stuff which he considers ‘real men’ do. But that is precisely what Amir is not, and Amir himself knows it too well. That is why when the annual kite flying competition is announced – one of the very few interests shared by the father-son duo- Amir decides he will ‘redeem’ himself before his father by winning the kite flying competition. Though he wins the competition, he also does one thing, rather ‘does not’ do one thing, which not only shatters his and Hassan’s lives, but which will haunt him for the rest of his existence. Soon after the Soviets attack Afghanistan and Amir, along with his father, is forced to flee to San Francisco, America.

Two decades later, Amir is married, is a successful writer and has more or less exorcised the ghost of his Kabul years, when Rahim Khan – his long deceased father’s old friend – calls and asks him to come to Kabul; a Kabul taken over by Taliban. And just before he hangs up, Rahim Khan, almost as an after-thought, tells Amir, “There is a way to be good again”, which gets Amir thinking. Why did Rahim Khan say this? What is the real reason for Rahim Khan to call him up? Does Rahim Khan know what he ‘did not’ do that day? Amir’s return to Afghanistan and answers to these questions forms the rest of the story.

The Kite Runner is a sensitive story which truly touches your heart. I was thinking how to end this review with a summary, when my eyes fell on the one line review by THE TIMES on the back cover of the novel, which I think best sums it up.

Hosseini is a truly gifted teller of tales... he’s not afraid to pull every string in your heart to make it sing.