I have never been to Afghanistan; most Americans can say that. Few of us knew much about it before the U.S. military strikes on the Taliban following September 11. Even now, what we know is based on the news reports we see on television.
Still, what do we really know? It is in this lack of familiarity with Afghanistan that Khaled Hosseini brings us his superbly written bestseller, “The Kite Runner.” The storyteller in Hosseini’s tale is Amir, who as a young and privileged Pashtun in Kabul in the early 1970’s, lives a sheltered life, unaware of the struggles surrounding him, nor of the turbulence about to overtake Afghanistan. Through is uneasy relationship with his father and a conflicted friendship with a Hazara servant’s son, Hassan, the story unfolds as a series of choices that shape the lives of the main characters of the book.
As Amir and his father eventually escape their crumbling country, first for Pakistan and later America, we get tastes of the chaos that gripped Afghanistan in the 80’s and 90’s. The shadow of the Taliban’s oppressive rule takes form, but it is a distant one to the Americanized and contented Amir; contented, except for the secret he left behind with his Afghani childhood. Confronted with the past, Amir returns to Afghanistan, and only now do we get to see the true and agonizing pictures of Afghanistan under the twisted and sickening Taliban rule. Also revealed is Amir's opportunity to atone for the past that had seemingly slipped away from him.
“The Kite Runner” should be required reading for Americans who too often assume knowledge of that which they do not know. It is eye-opening in its poignancy and rawness. Hosseini provides us with the horrors of life we cannot comprehend, but he also shows us the genuine humanness of a people through many touching and genuine moments.
“The Kite Runner” is both a tragedy and a story of redemptive love, and it is told in a style that holds the reader firmly in its grip. It is a book that will matter long after it slips from the bestseller lists, remaining a worthy read for years to come. However, the time to read it is now.