The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini (15 December — 18 December)

The Kite Runner is one of those books whose name I have been hearing since it came out, but which I have also managed to avoid reading or even knowing anything about. I’m just talented like that, I guess? So when I saw it on my Back to School Challenge list, I was like, “Eh, okay, I guess I can read this.”

Unfortunately, that’s sort of still how I feel. The cover blurbs promised adjectives like powerful, haunting, riveting, extraordinary, unexpected… I’m not convinced. I called most of the plot “twists” ages before they happened, and even though they weren’t really presented as twists, per se, they felt imbued with a sense of “Look at what I wrote! Isn’t it ironic and also incredibly clever of me?” whether Hosseini intended it or not.

The story was interesting, at least. It follows the life of our protagonist, Amir, from his childhood in Kabul through his emigration to America in the midst of Russian occupation and on to his return to Kabul to atone for past sins. These sins were against Hassan, the son of Amir’s father’s servant, who considered Amir his best friend and stood up for him against bullies but whose friendship was never quite reciprocated. When Amir witnesses an atrocity against Hassan, he takes the coward’s way out; running away from the scene and later running away from his guilt by getting Hassan and his father sent away. This event becomes a big old rock that weighs Amir down for the rest of his life, as we get to read!

I loved how Hosseini handled the friendship between Amir and Hassan — how they were friends by circumstance and how the power dynamic between them kept Amir from really accepting Hassan’s friendship. I thought all of the childhood scenes in Kabul were really well-written and believable. It was the rest of the book I was not so enamored with; the move to America and Amir’s marriage and difficulty having children took a long time to read but still seemed to be superficially written so that Hosseini could get his story back to Kabul, where Amir goes to find Hassan’s son and do that atoning thing. And then from there everything seemed to fall apart; it takes only a chapter or two for the son to be found, and then an entirely implausible scene occurs that gets the son into Amir’s hands, and then the process of getting the two of them back to America is meant to take forever but then is conveniently sped up, but then we have to keep reading to get to the kite running tie-in from the beginning of the novel.

Certainly the themes of the novel are good; friendship and betrayal and how our lives are so based on our childhoods. But I’ve seen these in other places and I found nothing unexpected or haunting or extraordinary about this treatment.

Rating: 6/10
(Back to School Challenge, My Year of Reading Dangerously, Countdown Challenge: 2003)

See also:
The Bluestocking Society
Blue Archipelago

Pass me yours, if you’ve got ’em.

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