I felt a bit apprehensive picking up The Kite Runner, considering all the buzz about it. (I don't trust overhyped books.) But, thankfully, it lived up to the publicity.
The story starts off set in Afghanistan, before the Taliban were in control and even before Russia began their campaign. It could have been set in the deep south of America prior to 1960 for that matter, or in Berlin right around the time Hitler reigned supreme, or perhaps more closely to regency England and colonial India- the climate is the same.
Two little boys, one rich Pashtun, one of the servant class Hazara, two litle boys who shouldn't care about each other, yet they are friends- or as close to it as two opposing classes can be.
My favorite stories are the ones that delve into the issues that darken a good man's soul. I love watching characters work their way to salvation. Some who didn't like TKR, say that Amir, the narrator and main character, is too selfish to be likable. And it's true, in the beginning, he is a bit selfish- he is not a nice little boy at times. In fact, his selfishness hits a low point when he sees his best friend, a servant boy named Hassan who is as close to him as a brother, viciously attacked- and stands by doing nothing to stop it. (It was a tough thing to observe as a reader!)
Still, I believe in hanging with a character to see where the author takes them. Hosseini did a fine job of rescuing Amir, in my eyes. The hero's guilt-ridden conscience is what proves to me that he is in fact redeemable, after such an act of reprehensible cowardice. If Amir had moved on without a glance back, I would have thrown the book at the wall and not finished it.
Thankfully I didn't have to. Eventually Amir grows to manhood, moves to America though not knowing what happened to his old friend (and too guilty to think about it), he marries, becomes a successful writer and, through it all, never lets himself find the forgiveness his soul so desperately wants.
Don't fret, Amir gets the chance to go back to his homeland and make things right. And he does so in a way that broke my heart. (The last scenes had me in tears!!)
Other criticisms for this book have said that it's too clichéd, too made for movieland. I have to agree, at times it was predictable- the "big twist" I saw coming a mile away, and I frankly wanted to shake Amir for not seeing it as soon as I did! All I've got to say is, what's so wrong with that?!
Ok, I'll also agree with some other naysayers that say some of the plot resolutions for the characters were a tad convenient. But I seriously didn't notice it until I thought about it later- and read some of the reviews. I think I so wanted this to have a happy ending, I just went along with it.
Anyway, despite the fact that I'm in agreement on some of these issues,(a bit, just a bit), I think the good far outweighs the bad. This is the kind of tale that sticks with you, the kind that I obsess over, much like I did when I first got a hold of Les Miserables. In FACT, much of what I adore about Les Miz is in this one. (And the author references Les Miz briefly just to prove the point!) Both the stories share the search for the balance of justice and mercy, of familial love and hate, and also finding forgiveness and the strength to pick ourselves up when we find our faces in the mud of guilt and shame.
TKR is not a romance, but it is a love story. A love story between fathers and sons, and those we call brothers- of the heart, if not blood. Their story touches on the complexities of familial love and accurately shows that, at times, we can love and hate those we feel the closest too.
Highly recommend this one!