Thursday, January 04, 2007

Book Review: The Kite Runner

A few weeks ago, as I was shopping for Christmas presents on Amazon, I looked at my wish list and my recommendation list and lamented that I hadn't had time to read for pleasure. Now that I'm not teaching, working full time and writing a dissertation, I can finally get back to reading. I thought I'd read what Amazon recommends and see if they're doing a good job of picking books for me.

The first book they recommended was The Kite Runner. So far, I'd say they're one for one. This was a good book. The characters and the story hooked me almost immediately. The story begins in pre-war Afganistan when the narrator is a young boy of about 9. I was fascinated by the setting, knowing nothing of Afganistan before the Taliban took over. How accurate the descriptions were, I don't know, but they were certainly compelling. The narrator, Amir, is the son of an influential and wealthy father. His best friend is the son of his father's servant, a Hazara named Hassan. Their friendship, however, is conflicted (at least in Amir's mind) by the difference in their status. This relationship is the anchor of the story. It is the conflict the narrator can't let go, even after he leaves Afganistan. The relationship is also a touchstone in many ways of the relationship Amir has with his father.

The narrator ages more than twenty years during the course of the book, and I was impressed by the way he seemed the same boy we met at the beginning of the book and also a completely different person who had been through two wars and a gruelling move to America. Also impressive were the descriptions of Afganistan during the reign of the Taliban when Amir returns to take care of some business of his father's (so as not to spoil the whole book for you). Amir remembers the tranquil Afganistan of his youth and seeing so much destruction and violence is heartbreaking. As a reader, I, too, felt the sadness of seeing something that was described so beautifully at the beginning of the book completely destroyed.

My only problem with the book, really, was the resolution. It's not that I didn't like the way it ended, but it was painful getting there. There were so many mini-conflicts at the end, I felt like I was in a bad action movie at times. The conflicts make sense, but I think at least one or two could have been left out and the ending still would have worked.

I would recommend the book wholeheartedly. It's a good read. You won't be disappointed with the story or the writing.