Jackie Gill's Reviews > The Kite Runner

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
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's review
May 13, 2008

it was ok
bookshelves: just-read
Recommended to Jackie by: Masses of "Simple People"
Recommended for: "Simple People"

** spoiler alert ** I must admit that although I had heard plenty of people mention The Kite Runner, I hadn’t actually paid much attention to what was said about it other than, “It was wonderful!”

So, a few days ago and several years after the book came out, I heard a couple of people discussing the “wonderful” book I decided to read it.

The first day, I read about a third of the novel (Hassan is raped, Amir feels bad, well sort of, he feels bad that Hassan is raped yes, but even worse because Hassan’s rape makes him feel bad and, of course, this means he needs to act badly and do bad things, and make more bad stuff happen to Hassan who is not bad at all.) And, I will admit that this portion of the book had me reading as quickly as I could. I flipped from one page to the next, skimmed over the plethora of annoyances, oops, I mean I skimmed over the Farsi vocab sprinkled evenly throughout to, of course, add authenticity and give it that multicultural feel that is sure to make every publisher drool over a manuscript, and I was even forgiving of the somewhat poor writing. Yes, on day one, I liked The Kite Runner. I was into The Kite Runner. And when I decided to continue my read the next day – I had high hopes!

The second day, I read to the point where Amir gets a phone call from a man he has not seen in years, abandons his “perfect life” in America (well, almost perfect, there is the infertility and the gap that his wife’s uterus is forming between them, but their sex life is still good – sometimes… WHAT!? Never mind…) so, anyway, Amir hops on a plane to Afghanistan which is being ruled by the Taliban, yet he enters without issue, and follows the yellow brick road and lands at OZ where it turns out that the man behind the glasses is not John Lennon at all – he is Assef – his childhood nemesis, pedophile, and just plain evil guy (and you know he is evil cause he likes Hitler – although he has never heard of ethic cleansing). So, Amir walks right into the Taliban compound and asks to see the wizard, I mean their leader, and is allowed to do so (actually it was more difficult for Dorothy to get in to see the wizard, she should have taken Amir with her) and when he gets in, we find out that Hassan’s son is made to dress like a monkey - GET IT A MONKEY – ya know like the monkey that Amir and Hassan would go see (too bad it wasn’t a flying monkey) – and provide entertainment for the Taliban, and provide sexual services for Assef – the same guy that had sex with Hassan and, now the obviously simple minded reader that Hosseini wrote for, says, “that is so weird the way that all happened, wow, I cant believe the way this is all coming together, this is sooooooo fascinating!” Oh, and for the thinking reader with any literary competence who MAY think that this is too much of a coincidence, don’t be so critical; this issue was already addressed when Amir ran into a beggar that happened to have taught with (and remembered doing so) Amir’s mother. We, the readers, are clearly TOLD that coincidence is VERY common in Afghanistan. Therefore, if the rest of the story seems too contrived, don’t worry, it is realistic for Afghanistan. So, don’t question it, cause he is the expert on Afghanistan and you (the reader) are not, therefore, just accept that this completely ridiculous, unrealistic, obviously contrived series of events, are very realistic in Afghanistan!

My third day of reading, I completed the book and instead of placing my hand over my heart, smiling, and thinking about how wonderful the book was, how beautiful the story was, and how it all came so nicely together in the end (apparently the reaction of the masses), I was mad. I was mad because there are so many people out there who think a book this ridiculous and obvious is brilliant. I was mad because this is precisely what is wrong with some multicultural literature and what gives multicultural literature a bad name. There are many pieces out there which are actually beautifully written, provide valuable insight into other cultures, and entertain the reader (i.e. Reading Lolita in Tehran), however, it does nothing for multicultural literature to publish pieces that are poorly written and filled with cliché. I can forgive (to a certain extent) poorer writing when the story is written as a true account and when the purpose of the novel to re-tell actual events. However, when an author decides he is going to write a piece of fiction, his style, diction, and storyline come into question. The final portion of the novel continues throwing out one cliché after another, and throws out one ridiculous coincidence after another. Just the fact that a good portion of the middle of the book was dedicated to pounding it into the readers head that Amir and Soraya could not have children and did not want to adopt, well, that is unless the bloodline is known, is enough to clue the reader in that they will adopt Sohrab waaaay before Amir even knows that he will adopt Sohrab. What a coincidence that Hassan just happened to be his half brother, happened to have a son, and the son happened to have been taken by Assef. And it was even more convenient that even from the grave, once again, Hassan could save Amir. He could provide him with a son and the opportunity to finally fight the big bully who STILL carried his brass knuckles. And more convenient yet, the fact that Sohrab always carried that slingshot (And in case we forgot that he always carried it, Amir remembered for us, as if Hosseini wants to say: see readers how clever I am, I set it up that Sohrab always had the slingshot, and now later in the story, it comes back out. See how clever I am readers, everything in my story has a purpose and is connected). However, what Hosseini needed to do is explain how a kid who has been taken from an orphanage, made to dress and entertain like a monkey, lives with the Taliban, and is a sex slave for the Big Bad Assef, still managed to keep his slingshot – the very weapon used against Assef in the past, and the very weapon that Assef has an issue with! Just how dumb must a reader be to believe that the freakin Taliban NEVER NOTICED!? So, okay, Sohrab saves Amir, they escape and the Taliban does nothing, and then another freaking coincidence – Amir will end up with a scar. And in case the reader does not deduce that Amir will have a scar from his busted lip, the doctor points it out and confirms it. Yes, reader, a scar like Hassan’s – get it? It’s connected – get it?

Truth be told, there are so many unbelievable incidents and ridiculous coincidences presented to us in this book that it would take pages to go through them all because they were present from beginning to end: The young Russian soldier who doesn’t shoot Baba and the older Russian soldier who apologizes for him and talks about the young soldiers – YEAH RIGHT! The fact that Amir is an author who is published right away and cranks out novel after novel with great success – YEAH RIGHT! Baba dies of lung cancer and then Rahim Khan seems to have to same issue – does Hosseini think all people who die of natural causes die of lung issues? Raymond Andrews who has a bad attitude because his kid committed suicide, and then the receptionist actually tells Amir that this happened – the way this came out seemed completely fake and contrived because – IT WOULDN’T HAPPEN! Then, of course, Sohrab tries to kill himself, so now we know why Andrews kid had to commit suicide – we needed one more obvious instance of foreshadowing. It is also a little odd how often Amir throws out how he knows about medicine because he is a writer – WHAT? I didn’t know I needed to seek out an author when I was sick. And so on and so on…

But one final point that I would like to make is that as soon as Amir picked up a kite it seemed that, much like Jesus, his hands began to bleed; therefore, I am left to wonder: why didn’t Amir know about the invent of gloves? Perhaps that is the biggest tragedy of it all.

By the way, I am still giving the novel two stars because there is an interesting story in there, and the glimpse into Afghanistan is valuable. It is just that the author did such a poor job of presenting the story that it actually detracts from the positive aspects of the book and makes the validity of his glimpse into Afghanistan quite questionable. Therefore, my two stars are for the possibilities that could have been if it had been written by a talented author.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
May 1, 2008 – Finished Reading
May 13, 2008 – Shelved
May 15, 2008 – Shelved as: just-read

Comments (showing 1-35 of 35) (35 new)

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message 1: by Jeffrey (last edited May 21, 2008 04:25PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jeffrey While all your points are valid, I do like the way he creates the relationships in the book, and although he always seemed to make the wrong choices, it is what makes us human, and how important forgiveness is. I admit that by the end of the book I disliked Amir because he was such a weak character, but it's also very interesting to have such a character as your protagonist. The film was able to take what I thought to be a rather unlikable character and to give him a lot more positive traits, making the negatives less aggravating. It's telling that his nephew is the one who has to save his life at the end. But the film does make you feel that he finally becomes a better person for all this in the end. While the book made me feel that he would always continue to be a loser.

La Petite Américaine I wish I could articulate as well as you just how much this book sucked. The first part WAS good, I admit ... but then it all fell apart.

Ugh, SO GLAD I borrowed a copy instead of spending my hard-earned, super-taxed Euros to buy it.

Jackie Gill Well, I suppose I am. I write all of the time. I have a few things published (in literary magazines). I have written a masters thesis. I have written MANY theoretical and research papers toward my doctoral degree (then there is the pesky "little" dissertation). I do have a novel in the works (don't most people), although, it is at a half way point and will probably remain there for some time. Why do you ask?

message 4: by Megan (last edited Jul 07, 2008 09:59AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Megan "Simple People" ???
Are you a "simple person" or is that your way of thinking you're higher than other people? (no offence, I'm just wondering.) And don't the "coincidential" moments of the book make it what it is? For example, without Amir meeting Assef again near the end and getting beat by him for Sohrab, Amir would never have thought free of what he did to Hassan.

Christine Hair I completely agree with you, Jackie. The foreshadowing was ham-fisted and I could see the story coming a mile away.

He just "happens" to run into his mother's old teaching buddy. The Taliban just "happens" to be run by his old arch-nemesis Assef. (I, like you, laughed that someone who loves Hitler and gives Assef a Hilter BOOK wouldn't know what ethnic cleansing is)

From the first 1/4 of the book it had so much potential... and then it just fell apart. I came to goodreads glad I"m not the only one who felt that way.

Suzanne Can't we just get over ourselves and enjoy a good story now and again?

Jackie Gill Sure we can, I love a good story, this just doesn’t happen to be one. I suppose for those who know very little about literature and craft this very contrived piece may be viewed as "good;" and, the success of this novel is a sad commentary about literacy. For a reader not to be bothered by the obvious and contrived nature of this book, the reader is either young (which I can understand) and/or lacking in literary education/experience. In reality, this book would be more accurately marketed for the middle school level of reader; but, even if that was the primary market, the fact is, the writing is adequate at best, the plot is less than adequate, and students should really be exposed to better writing and plot. For instance, Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are, is a children’s book which shows more literary talent than Hosseini could ever hope to aspire to. Even the Harry Potter novels are a million times better written and plotted out than The Kite Runner; and, Harry Potter is obviously marketed toward the young reader and/or those who “just enjoy a good story.”

La Petite Américaine And I'm going to have to agree with you there. Where the Wild Things Are is a million times better than The Kite Runner. So is Harry Potter. And like you said, those are just good stories, they're not pretending to be a work of literature.

Months have passed, and I still passionately hate this book. Why can't people pick up Reading Lolita in Tehran or Prisoner of Tehran if they want real literature and insight into the Middle East? No, instead, it's stupid people who need to feel their stomachs churn and then have a good cry (one reviewer called books like The Kite Runner "tear-jerker porn") and move on ... without having to use too many big words. UGH.

La Petite Américaine I must say, if I had your gift for writing, I'd catch a lot less crap. :)

Jackie Gill Thank you for the compliment! Don’t let em get to you-sometimes "catching crap" and arguing can be fun (especially when you have the upper hand ;-)).

La Petite Américaine The person who left her comments under my review ended up deleting ... sigh....couldn't take the heat I guess ;)

message 12: by Stefan (new) - added it

Stefan Jackie, define your view of a simple person besides the obvious young readers and/or a person who lacks literary education. By saying it was recommended to you by a simple person and saying that you recommend it to a simple person, do you mean that you are a simple person or that you consider yourself superior to pretty much everyone else?

Jackie Gill LOL, I think I can best answer your questions by stating:

1. I "get" sarcasm
2. Simple people do not "get" sarcasm

message 14: by Neil (new) - rated it 5 stars

Neil Jackie, would it be possible for you to put together a list of books for me to read?
You obviously have such exquisite taste in literature, I for one can't wait to read your published novel, (when it's finished), it will be a classic I'm sure.

Jackie Gill Ya know what Neil, perhaps I was wrong with my last comment, apparently even some simple people can get, or at least attempt to dish out some form of, sarcasm. As for your book list: If you feel that Kite Runner is quality (yet you went searching for negative reviews because I know I didn’t hunt you down), you may just want to go down to your local discount store and load up on some great paperback romance novels. I am pretty sure that the general plots will be the same, but I am also sure it will be a great surprise for you each time! Have fun reading.

message 16: by Neil (new) - rated it 5 stars

Neil Oh dear! That's me put in my place then.

message 17: by Ready (new)

Ready Reader But, where is NO after the question "Like this review?" :)

message 18: by Chris (new) - rated it 1 star

Chris This review is way better than mine.

message 19: by Ready (new)

Ready Reader Well Jackie, if you wanted to show people you read the book you've made your point, clearly and thoroughly :)
The book wasn't such a torment for me to read. It's a nice read and I recommend reading it to anyone looking for a book to read in these summer days.


Jackie Gill Are you the same "Ready" who on 5/10/2009 said, "But, where is NO after the question "Like this review?" :)" ?? I am so flattered that you keep coming back to my review. Perhaps a deeper part of your conscious recognizes the truth in my review and is just trying to get you to wake up and stop subjecting it to poor excuses for literature.

message 21: by Ready (last edited Jul 22, 2009 01:09PM) (new)

Ready Reader Yes Jackie, I'm the same witty guy who wrote that famous line. Congratulations, you've got a personal stalker :)
I'm joking, don't take that so seriously.
I've received an email from the site noticing me that someone has posted in the thread, so I've added my thought on this.
I liked your review actually, it's thorough and I could agree on many parts of it, but in general, I think you were pretty harsh in your critics. I liked a book, and I didn't feel that the plot is so corny a story as you did, but there's a room for any opinion, it's a literature finally not math :)
Your answer made me take a look (a quick though,I don't have time at the moment for more reading)at your other reviews and books you've read. Two brief observation, I hope you won't mind.
"Crime and punishment" is a masterpiece of world's literature and I really love that book.I've read many other Dostoeyvski's books and along with "Idiot" and "The insulted and the injured", that's my favourite book. Three stars is not much for this book in my opinion.
"Moby Dick" was the book I tried to read. One of the rare books I couldn't finish.I had had great expectation about this book when I started with reading and I was dissapointed to say at least.My hope that the book gets better lasted until I read less than a half of a book and I stopped there. I never knew what happened with Captain Ahab in the end. I learned a lot about the whale species though, and that fact would make me give the book a half of a star if I wrote a review of the book myself.
Sorry for writing in length here Jackie, I tried to make it as short as I could :)
I liked your review in fact, and although I do not entirely share your opinion, after reading the review I didn't have any doubt that it was written by a well-read person, and someone who is knowledgeable of fiction literature.

P.S I'm still learning english and I apologize for the grammatical slips I possibly made writing this comment

Best regards

message 22: by Erica (new)

Erica I can not agree with you more on this review I felt exactly the same way about the entire book

Minhazul Hoque Hassan's rape was a very gross part in the story but it was also very sad. I made a connection with Afghanistan and the United States of America. In the United States raping someone would lead to jail and especially if your a male and you rape a male then your considered gay. But in Afghanistan it was not considered gay, That's what happened in the street of Afghanistan. Seeing and hearing these events were part of a normal everyday Afghan life.

Lisette Wow, Jackie. I would've just seen this review as personal tastes' diverging since I think this book is pretty evocative and powerful in its examinations of relationships and personal responsibility. And you apparently don't. But when you started calling those of us who enjoy this book as "simple minded" and unable to understand sarcasm and then proceeded to "prove" this by waving your degrees and assorted writings as if anyone with a comparable resume to yours would agree, I got pissed. I'd wager I have a comparable amount of (if not more) formal education (including degrees) from top-tier universities and more writing, both academic (yes, I've written more than one graduate thesis because I have more than one graduate degree) and creative writing that appears in literary journals and I still can appreciate this novel. And not insult those with differing tastes.

message 25: by Natalie (new)

Natalie I am so happy to read this review xD I think it suits it well. It's claimed to be a foriegn, cultural story that my Global teacher acctually REALLY encouraged us to read-- but it was so soft, flat, predictable, and, ironically enough, Americanised for us live-under-a-rock easy entertainment seekers. I'd like to read a book with a foriegn edge to learn more about unfamiliar places and have a different taste but, sadly, this book cannot offer that. It can't offer anything more than an interesting tragedy with a somewhat less-tragic ending. Rock on.

Whitney ♥ Ell Perfect review.

message 27: by Pete (new) - rated it 5 stars

Pete wow thank you for open my eyes how could i like this book i guess im "simple" thank you for you are beyond us comon folk you are so great

Jackie Gill No Problem :-)

message 29: by Perlis (new)

Perlis J. I think most of us bring a little bit of our egos into the reading and reviewing of what we read. When the reviews become contests of who understand what more or less of what we read, how does that help each other? ACKNOWLEDGEMENT then becomes the topic, not book reviewing. A true teacher in my humble opinion, knows how to get his readers/students to ask their OWN questions not supply ready answers when the reading material is subjective. Everyone brings what they have to the library. The interpretation is always PERSONAL no matter how many degrees the reader has. The writer knows he will not appeal to everyone...he writes for one reason..to inform, to educate yes, but mostly to satisfy his own personal creative urges and passions. Hang in there Jackie, find where your passions lie and finish your damned book! Then,your anger will dissipate and you will be more tolerant of ALL writers, even ones who don't match your presumed skill. Then, when you are published, we can all review your book. Objectively, of course!

Sonja Trbojevic Well put!

message 31: by Adam (new)

Adam Gottbetter This is a fair, fearless and insightful review. I had similar thoughts when reading The Kite Runner. - Adam Gottbetter

message 32: by Suzanne (new)

Suzanne Perada My best friend and I started reading literary fiction as young teenagers, and both in our mid-sixties now, we continue to let literature enhance our lives. Years ago when this book came out, she told me how much she loved it. Fearing I was losing her to popular culture, since she watches way too many of those "reality" crime shows, I said, "Yes, but did you think it was a great novel, or even a good novel?" She said, "No, of course not, but who cares?" I think this is the only intelligent response to this novel. I too enjoyed part of the book, particularly the first half, although after reading it I did feel a bit of that "Well, I'll never get those hours of my life back," feeling that one gets after watching a trashy movie.
Unfortunately, most of America didn't share this response, and here is one truly unfortunate consequence. I currently tutor an extremely intelligent young woman who is taking a 12th grade advanced placement English class. You guessed it - she was assigned KITE RUNNER! It's just such a waste of her and other students' precious time.
I am sharing your review with this student, as I know she will enjoy your humor and observations. Thanks for your literacy!

Lilly Viol I enjoyed your review and can only agree 100% with it. Like all of it. We must be soulmates, what a coincidence! We will probably both die of lung cancer too!

message 34: by Jack (new) - rated it 2 stars

Jack Kanzler Your review is perfect, you should be proud of yourself.

message 35: by Howard (new)

Howard Amazing and perfect story. Thanks

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