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"The Kite Runner"
by Khaled Hosseini
Bloomsbury / Riverhead | June 2004 | ISBN 0747566534
Recommended by Kurshid Assenjee: The Kite Runner was recommended to me with a large box of tissues, partly because I cry too much but mostly because this is an extremely tragic tale on many levels.
The story begins in Afghanistan in the 1970s and spans over 20 years. It is told from the perspective of Amir, a rich Afghani boy who lives with his father and their Hazara (low caste Shi'a) servants. Amir, an only child, spends much of his childhood with Hassan, the son of his father's loyal servant Ali and also the best "kite runner" in Kabul. The boys grow up as brothers despite the social differences, but this relationship is put to the test after an important kite flying tournament. Amir ends up betraying Hassan (you'll have to read the book to find out how) and forces him and Ali out of his father's home. A few years later, in the 1980s, Amir and his father flee to America to escape the Russian occupation of Afghanistan, and his country, like his best friend, soon becomes a distant memory. Twenty years later however, during the Taliban's rule, Amir receives an urgent call that returns him to Afghanistan to face the demons he has been hiding from.
This is a heartbreaking tale of family, friendship, class divides, betrayal and ultimately, redemption. The narrative is ingenious, and the pace including the many twists and turns is breathtaking. Though the novel focuses on a personal tale and tragedy, I found its other story the story of Amir's homeland and its many upheavals, just as moving. The description of Afghanistan before its many "occupations" is a tragedy in itself; Hosseini portrays a country on the cusp of greatness, which of course makes what happens next all the more tragic. When Amir returns to Afghanistan after twenty years, his shock is palpable; he has come back to an entirely different country, only fragments remain from his past.
The Kite Runner was a wonderful read, the depth of the characters and the clever storyline kept me gripped from beginning to end. I can unashamedly say that I cried throughout the entire book so just make sure you have a box of tissues handy.
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About the author: Khaled Hosseini was born in Kabul, Afghanistan in 1965. He is the oldest of five children. and his mother was a teacher of Farsi and History at a large girls high school in Kabul. In 1976, Khaled's family was relocated to Paris, France, where his father was assigned a diplomatic post in the Afghan embassy. The assignment would return the Hosseini family in 1980, but by then Afghanistan had already witnessed a bloody communist coup and the Soviet invasion. Khaled's family, instead, asked for and was granted political asylum in the U.S. He moved to San Jose, CA, with his family in 1980. He attended Santa Clara University and graduated from UC San Diego School of Medicine. He has been in practice as an internist since 1996. He is married, has two children (a boy and a girl, Haris and Farah). The Kite Runner is his first novel.