The Kite Runner

ISBN: 0747588945
ISBN 13: 9780747588948
By: Khaled Hosseini

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About this book

Winter, 1975: Afghanistan, a country on the verge of an internal coup. 12-year-old Amir is desperate to win the approval of his father, one of the richest merchants in Kabul. He's failed to do so through academia or brawn but the one area they connect is the annual kite fighting tournament.

Reader's Thoughts

Linda

Finished this book about a month ago but it's taken me this long to write a review about it because I have such mixed feelings about it. It was a deeply affecting novel, but mostly not in a good way. I really wanted to like it, but the more I think about what I didn't like about the book, the more it bothers me. I even downgraded this review from two stars to one from the time I started writing it to the time I finished.Let's start off with the good, shall we? The writing itself was pretty good when it comes to description, in that I really felt the author's descriptions of scenes, and in terms of moving the story forward. That said, it's not particularly challenging writing to read.The very best part of the novel is its warm depiction of the mixed culture of Afghanistan, and how it conveys the picture of a real Afghanistan as a living place, before the coup, the Soviet invasion, and above all, the Taliban and the aftermath of September 11th created a fossilized image in the US of a failed state, petrified in "backwardness" and locked in the role of a villain from central casting. Now for the not so good.== Spoiler Alert ==... because I don't think I'm going to be able to complain about what I didn't like about the book without revealing major plot points. (Not to mention, some of what follows will only make sense to someone who has read the book.) So if you don't want to spoil it for yourself, read no further, here be spoilers:My overwhelming emotion throughout the book is feeling entirely manipulated. Of course, one major reason for this is that the author's attempts at metaphor, allegory, and forshadowing are utterly ham-fisted. When he wants to make a point, he hits you over the head with it, hard -- Amir's split lip / Hassan's cleft palate comes immediately, resoundingly to mind.But I feel manipulated beyond that. The members of the servant class in this story suffer tragic, unspeakable calamities, sometimes at the hands of our fine hero, and yet the novel seems to expect the reader to reserve her sympathies for the "wronged" privileged child, beating his breast over the emotional pain of living with the wounds he has selfishly inflicted upon others. How, why, am I supposed to feel worse for him as he feels bad about what he has done to others? Rather than feeling most sympathy and kinship for those who, through absolutely no fault of their own, must suffer, not just once or twice, but again and again? Of course this elevation of / identification with the "wounded"/flawed hero goes hand in hand with an absolutely detestable portrayal of the members of the servant class as being at their utmost happiest when they are being their most servile and utterly subjugating their own needs, wants, desires, pleasures -- their own selves, in fact -- to the needs of their masters. (Even when they are protecting their masters from their own arrogance, heartlessness, or downright stupidity.)I don't see how the main character, Amir, could possibly be likeable. Amir's battle with Assef, momentous as it is, is not so much him taking a stand because he feels driven to do so or feels that he must. Rather, he acts with very little self-agency at all -- he is more or less merely carried forward into events. (And, moreover, in the end it is Sohrab (Hassan again) who saves him.) I finished the novel resenting Amir, and even more intensely resenting the author for trying to make the reader think she's supposed to care about Amir, more than about anyone else in the story.A couple other points: I'm wondering if one theme of the novel is that there are no definitive happy endings, no single immutable moments of epiphany or redemption. Because Amir's moral "triumph", such as it is, over Assef, is so short-lived. He manages to crash horrifically only a week or two later, when he goes back on his word to Sohrab about his promise not to send him to an orphanage.And lastly, I don't understand why Baba's hypocrisy is not more of a theme. He makes such a point of drilling into his son's head that a lie is a theft of one's right to the truth. His own hipocrisy there is a profound thing, and it's a shame the author doesn't do more with it. Nevertheless, after all the bad things I had to say about it, I do have a couple quotes worth keeping:"Every woman needed a husband. Even if he did silence the song in her." (p.178)"'That's the real Afghanistan, Agha sahib. That's the Afghanistan I know. You? You've always been a tourist here, you just didn't know it.'" (p. 232)=== UPDATE ===I originally posted my review The Kite Runner in February 2008. Since then, my review has generated a very robust response from other Goodreads members. I have responded a couple of times in the comments section, but I realize that by now, the comments section has gotten long enough that some folks may not realize that I have added some clarifications to my review. So, although the extended reply that I posted in the comments section in October 2008 is still available in the comments section, I am re-posting it here, so people don't miss it.I also want to offer my continued thanks to those who have read, liked, and/or comment on my review of The Kite Runner. This kind of back-and-forth conversation on books is exactly why I signed on to Goodreads! I appreciate the feedback, and look forward to engaging in more such discussion. Finally, one more quick reply. One recent commenter asked how I could have given this book only a 1 star rating, if I was so affected by it. As I replied in the comments, the short answer is that I am guided by Goodread's prompts when I rate a book. Two stars is "It was OK;" 1 star is "I didn't like it." While I have praised a few things about the book, the bottom line is, overall, I didn't like it. -- Linda, 22 July 2011Posted 24 October 2008:There have been many comments to my review since I first wrote it, and I thought it might be about time for me to weigh in for a moment.Before I get into my response, I must start off with a great thank you for all those who have felt sufficiently moved (positively or negatively) by my review to comment and respond. I appreciate all the comments, whether I agree with them or not.First of all, I'd like to address the question of whether we're "supposed" to like Amir or not. Yes, I do realize that sometimes writers create and/or focus on a character that the reader is not meant to like. Here, though, the story is clearly meant to be about some kind of redemption -- but I found Amir so distasteful, that I simply wasn't interested in his redemption. The focus of the story was entirely on how Amir's life had been corrupted by the despicable things he'd done - when the things he'd done were entirely part and parcel of the position of power and privilege he occupied over Hassan.Which brings me to my second point, the insufferable current of paternalism that runs throughout the story. The members of the servant and poorer classes are consistently portrayed as saintly, absurdly self-sacrificing, one-dimensional characters. Regardless of what terrible things befall them, they are shown to have nothing but their masters' interests at heart. Granted, it may be unlikely that the powerless would be overtly talking back and setting their masters straight; however, the novel gives no indication that they even have any private wishes of recrimination, or much of a private life, for that matter. Given this portrayal, it is even more difficult for me to muster any interest in Amir's suffering. But to suggest that perhaps we're misinterpreting the servants' subservient attitudes because we approach the story from a different time, place, or culture, is simply to engage in a cultural relativism borne out of -- and perpetuating -- the very same paternalism.To clarify my point, let's look at some comparable examples from US culture. Consider any one of a huge number of films such as Driving Miss Daisy, Clara's Heart, Bagger Vance, or Ghost (all simply continuing a tradition that reaches back to Shirley Temple's days) in which noble servants or similar helpers have absolutely no concern in their lives other than making sure the wealthy people they are serving have happy, fulfilled lives -- while they themselves never seem to have any of their own personal hopes, desires, triumphs, tragedies, or even any hint of a home, family, personal, or romantic life at all. Their total happiness is bound up entirely with serving the lives of their rich counterparts. It is this quality, present throughout Hosseini's book, that bothers me most.In the end, however, a beautifully written story could have overcome these criticisms -- or at the very least, I would have been able to temper or counter my points above with lavish praise for the writing. However, here, again, the novel falls flat. It is not particularly well-written. As some other commenters have also pointed out, the storytelling is quite heavy-handed, and the narrative suffers from implausible plot twists and uncanny coincidences, and a writing style that relies far too heavily on cliches and obvious literary devices.I wish that I could say I liked the book more. To answer [another commenter's] question, I haven't read A Thousand Splendid Suns; I'm afraid I wasn't particularly motivated to do so after my reaction to this one. However, I do believe, as that commenter also suggests, that there is something to be gained from the debate and discussion that the book has inspired.

Sammy

What a powerful story. I didn't think I was going to like this book as much as I did... but I really did. I got so involved in this book that my emotions were going haywire. Not just feeling happy and sad as you do with most books, but feeling anxious and angry and dissappointed. Everything these characters felt I began to feel. That's definitely the mark of a great novel and a great writer.One thing I think this novel really does is shed light on a situation we really don't know all that much about. It highlights a country we only see in stereotypical clips on the news, skewing our perception and making us think only of one type of world. The Kite Runner puts the world we either never saw or don't see into view. We think of Kabul and Afghanistan only as he writes it in the second half of the novel, most of us have never even thought about it in the way it's portrayed in the first half. And that's how Aghanistan was for the longest time.I think one of the most amazing things about this novel was the friendship between Hassan and Amir. It wasn't what you would think with, "I don't care that he's in another race I'll defend my friend no matter what." It was a real friendship against the odds. He didn't make it cute or fake, Hosseini made it raw and how it would really be in the world where a certain race is persecuted.The characters are also all well-developed and three demensional. Never once did I see a character that was just there to further the story along and then left, without a background or history to them. Every single character gracing that page had a soul and had a past.As usual there's so much more I want to say about this book, but for something this good you'll just have to read it yourself. Trust me, it may sound like something you really don't think you'd care for, but you'll be surprised how much Hosseini's writing and characters pull you in. Soon you'll find yourself very grateful you listened to me and picked up this book. Seriously, this book is worth your time.

Wade

i had a little bit of a hard time getting into this book at first. i'm picky about characterization and overly sensitive to indulgent description. at first, i found the characters too one-dimensional. Baba never seemed to confront a situation that was morally complicated -- he never actually -wrestled- with bears. similarly, none of the other characters had must wrestling -- only broadly-painted blocks of emotional themes.like most people [i think] i was sympathetic to Amir's thoughts and reactions, but eventually i found him annoying -- pushed too far into caricature by the theme of his childhood. it was hard for me to put up with his dramatic descriptions of Soraya.but in the end (where i've read a number of reviews that claim it resorts to fable) i liked it again. it still paints too easy a picture of the good guys and bad ones, but it complicates things. i liked the fable-like quality, as if Hosseini was hitting his groove in storytelling, where the hero gets to wrestle honestly--not just fail or succeed as a matter of trope.i kept wondering how Hosseini felt about Amir. there seemed to be false notes in the early descriptions of his childhood, as if he was trying too hard to set up the lessons Amir would learn later.i also found Assef to be a fascinating character -- clearly stating Hosseini's perspective on the nature of the Taliban. still quite broadly painted, but i think i have to believe on some level that people who are committing atrocities like this are using religion and politics to play out their cruel impulses.i think part of the book's success was explaining Amir's reactions in a way that i suspect most people (most US readers) would understand. i think Amir and Hassan's relationship provides an good description about some of the dynamics of power and privilege. Amir sees Hassan as exotically good, "salt of the earth," and therefore better than him. he reacts with minor cruelty yet expects devotion. he feels guilt but can let it pass. he can (as Farid accuses later) always leave and go back to his walled mansion (literally or figuratively).Hosseini seems to be at his best when (like Jhumpa Lahiri?) he's dealing with the complex yankings of modernism and tradition in national/cultural communities in the US. i'm looking forward to reading A Thousand Splendid Suns because there are (hopefully) real -women- in that one. i found it a little difficult to read all the absences of real women. the theme of the dead mother written in Amir's perspective, i guess, and a symptom of a few of the broad thematic sweeps that don't get complicated.wow, that's a long review. if you read it, sorry for wasting so much of your time.

Matt

i really wanted to like this novel. judging from its thousands of 'five-star reviews' hailing it as the one of the 'best books ever written,' i'm in the minority when i state that this novel, while well-intentioned, just left a little bit of sour taste in my mouth. my problems with the novel are as follows: first of all the writing itself is so ham-fistened, heavy-handed, distracting and otherwise puzzling that by the midway point, i seriously considered chucking the book against the wall. each page of the novel has at least 5-10 incomplete sentences. i'm all for experimental and fractered prose--but it's important for authors to use it judiciously. hosseini, unfortunately, beats it to death. a lot of his language is cliched, too, which is funny considering there's a passage in the book about a writing teacher who warns the narrator, amir, about using cliches. i don't know if that was supposed to be funny or not, but it made me laugh (and what was worse was the san francisco's chronicle's glowing review on the book's cover and the san francisco chronicle's glowing review of amir's novel--coincidence?). the author's use of farsi--especially in the dialogue--was equally distracting. my point is that no one speaks the way his characters speak. people don't switch back and forth between languages while speaking, and if they do, they certainly don't speak 1/2 the sentence in english, say one word in farsi, then traslate the farsi word to english, then finish the sentence in english, when they're presumably speaking farsi to begin with. i didn't pick up this book for a crash course in colloquial farsi. after 370 pages, i was frustrated--and annoyed. hosseini's plot often borders on the ridiculous. the'twists' are just TOO coincidental--and not surprising at all (except in how contrived they are). for example, in a devasted kabul, amir sees a homeless man in the street. the homeless man, of course, was a former university professor who just happened to teach with amir's long deceased mother. what a coincidence! what makes it worse, is that the narrator, amir then explains that while that may, in fact, seem like a coincidence, it happens in afghanistan happens all the time. of course it does. in another example, amir's former nemesis, assaf (now a taliban crony), beats up amir and amir ends up with a scar above his lip, just like his dear friend hassan, who was born with cleft-pallet. oh, the coincidence! (and the fact that amir even runs into assef again is ridiculous). another example: amir and his wife aren't able to have children, and of course they find an orphan boy who happens to be extended family and they adopt him. what a coincidence! and after amir returns to afghanistan he doesn't call home to his dutiful wife for over a month. i kept wondering 'when's he gonna call home?' and any plot advanced by a series of 'tragedies,' (and in this book they are legion) shows little more than the writer's inability to craft a meaningful and interesting plot. not only is it pretty poor form, it's also highly manipulative and condescending. i found myself continually frustrated by hosseini's apparent distrust of the reader. we don't have to be told how and when to interpret metaphors. and if i read one more book where the protagonist is a writer or professor, i'm gonna ram my head into a metal post. i don't want to sound like a misanthrope or jaded literature reader because i'm certainly not. this novel just left me wanting so much more in terms of plot and characterization. having said that, however, the novel could be important in that shows the cruelty of the taliban. much of what hosseini writes about is important, especially for us westerners unfamiliar with the breadth and scope of the afghani tragedy. in the end, it was worth the $2.00 i paid for it.

Shannon (Giraffe Days)

This is a largely uncritical review, but I found it to be a beautiful, haunting, powerful tale. The Kite Runner is about a young boy, Amir, growing up in a wealthy part of Kabul, Afghanistan, the only son of a popular entrepenuer, who betrays his best friend and later has a chance to redeem himself. As his father's best friend, Kahim, says, "There's a way to be good again." Amir grows up with Hassan, the Hazara servant boy whose father, Ali, grew up with Amir's father. Hassan's mother left as soon as he was born, and he endured taunts and bullying all his life, especially for being a Hazara, which I've never heard of before but I gather it's like being a Jew in Nazi Germany, only with no money or education. So maybe it's more like the black slaves? Anyway, Amir knows he's a coward, he wants to write stories, not fight back against the likes of local, half-German tough boy Assef, who idolises Hitler. He knows his father is disappointed in him, and is jealous when his dad ("Baba") shows affection and preferential treatment toward Hassan.Hassan is also the best kite runner in the city. The boys play a kite-flying game in winter; the strings are coated in tar and cut glass, and they deftly fly them so that their kite cuts the strings of other boys' kites. The winner is the last kite in the air, and extra kudos to you if you run down the last kite to be cut.Amir wins the kite flying tournament one year, and sends Hassan off after the last cut kite. Hassan, devoted and loyal to Amir, runs off, saying over his shoulder, "For you, a thousand times over." Winning the tournament means everything to Amir, for Baba will love him now. But Amir witnesses something horrible horrible horrible, and does nothing, says nothing. Even when he learns that Hassan knows he saw what happened, Amir does nothing. He chooses his father's attention and love over Hassan. Because Hassan's presence reminds Amir of what happened, he can't stand being around him anymore, and finds a way to get rid of both Hassan and Ali.Amir is a very interesting character. As a boy, aware of his own weaknesses, he is not very likeable, though as a literary character his personality is so well written, his first-person voice edged with a touch of snobby, upper-class arrogance. He is embarrassed by Hassan: while he likes to play with him, when Amir's other friends are around Hassan isn't invited to join in, and Amir never calls him his friend. When Amir is older, he knows that Hassan was the better person, the stronger and braver and kinder, more generous soul. But Amir is just a child, and one with high expectations of himself, let alone his father's.There were many things to love about this book. First of all, it wasn't set in the 50s!! It starts out in the 70s, when Amir is about 12, and follows him through to 2002, about a year after 9/11. It is very eye-opening in regards to Afghanistan, a country where, frankly, very few of us know much about. The Kite Runner reveals how relatively modern their lives were before the Russians entered the scene, and how the Taliban were welcomed at first because they got rid of the Russians. After that, Hosseini is very unforgiving towards the Taliban, and paints a very black picture of them. When Amir has to return from America to Afghanistan, the depictions of the Taliban executing adulterers and threatening people for cheering too loudly at sports events, is frightening. What happens to Amir when he encounters an old foe is even scarier. Yet this is not a morbid book. There is a vein of silver running all through it: hope. The book ends with hope, a small nugget of it, a private, personal hope, but important nonetheless.Hosseini shows the human side of Afghanistan, not the poppy-growing, fanatical side. He paints a picture of Kabul full of Mulberry and pomegranate trees, green grass and playing fields and parks, markets full of the spicy aroma of kabobs, and a tightly-knit community no less family-oriented than the Greeks or Italians. I learnt about some Afghan customs, I even learnt the meaning of some words, like Inshallah ("God willing", if my memory serves me correctly - I don't have the book with me).This is a sad tale, for what was lost and what was - and is - endured, but also a warm one, for the colourful characters, the solidarity, the determination. Ultimately a story of survival and redemption, The Kite Runner was thoroughly enjoyable, a quick, not particularly challenging read, but one that challenges our assumptions and prejudices.

La Petite Américaine

After pondering long and hard, I'm going to try now to articulate just what it was about this book that sucked so much, why it has offended me so greatly, and why its popularity has enraged me even more. This book blew so much that I've been inspired to start my own website of book reviews for non-morons. So let us explore why. First, let's deal with the writer himself. Hosseini's father worked for Western companies while in Afghasnistan. While daddy (who I am guessing, from Hosseini's tragic account of the "fictional" father, never accepts his son) worked and got wealthy, normal Afghans lived their lives. When war broke out, Hosseini's father was offered a safe position in Iran. Just before the revolution in Iran, his father was offered another job in Paris, before finally taking the family to the USA. That's fine ... some of us are lucky in life. Others are not. What bothers me, though, is that The Kite Runner is so obviously what Hosseini WISHES had happened.There is no doubt in my mind that the Hassan character really did exist in some form or another. Surely Hosseini had a friend/sometimes playmate/servant who was left behind while Hosseini's powerful family escaped. Surely, Hosseini feels guilty for leaving his homeland by simple privilege while the less fortunate were left behind to fight the Soviets, the Mujahideen, and then the Taliban. And surely, Hosseini wishes he were some flawed hero that didn't simply get lucky. He wishes he'd majored in English, as the protagonist does, and published fiction books instead of becoming a run-of-the-mill doctor; he wishes his father had depended upon him in the USA as happens in the book, instead of getting by just fine as a rich exile with a daddy-doesn't-love-me complex; he wishes he could go back to Afghanistan, risking his life to make ammends for his shitty and cowardly past, instead of remaining a wealthy outsider living happily in the USA. Hosseini is simply some guy who feels guilty about having escaped what so many of his fellow countrymen couldn't, and he makes up for it in fantasy in a million ways: accepting his fallen father, marrying an "unsuitable" woman, listening to a voice from the past, saving the son of his friend he watched being raped decades before (when he was too selfish to intervene), stomaching the live stoning of a burka-clad woman and her adulterous lover, taking a beating from an old enemy/Taliban child molestor, giving $2000 to a poor smuggler who tries to feed his kids on $3 a week, and saving a 12 year-old from suicide. If Hosseini REALLY did all this, what a hero he would be. Instead, he just makes it up and calles it a novel ... and people devour this shit with tears, labeling it as "inspirational" and "moving."What really bothers me? Besides all of the contrived and predictable plot twists?? What really disturbs me is that people not only eat this shit up, but they also call it "literature," award it, and give this guy money and license to write another book. For lack of better words ... WTF?!!!??! Has everyone just gone STUPID?!!?!?I could go on about how the writing sucks, especially when the author admits to using cliches (elephant in the room, dark as night, thin as a rake, et fucking c) but I won't. Why? A couple of reasons:1) If you liked this book, a part of you is sick, and a larger part of you is an idiot 2) I could write a 100-page thesis about how much this book blew monkey chunks, but it's not worth my time3) This shit sells, and Hosseini, between his stupid book and movie deals, is an even richer man than he was before ... which in the end, makes him smarter than you, me, and everyone else .... He understands the market and fed it back to us. We probably deserve it.

Msmeemee

SPOILERS AHEAD!!!so, it starts off strong. it almost feels like a biography, that's how real it felt to me. i actually looked on the back of the cover to see if it was based on a true story or something. one thing i noticed off the bat was hosseini's style of writing. it was an extremely easy read. i wasn't sure if this was so it would be accessible to a wider audience or so we could concentrate more on the story rather than the prose or what. what's ironic is that the narrator and protagonist is supposed to be a gifted writer. anyway, the writing wasn't the book's strongest point. honestly, the author of the inner elvis had much better descriptive writing.however, his simplistic writing style didn't take away from the emotions triggered in the story. i was practically bawling at every emotional scene. i have to say, though, that the rape scene, which is the first dramatic scene in the novel, was the best one. i know that sounds horrible, but it's timing and significance was on point. and that's where things kinda went downhill for me. even though i was caught up in the story, things became really cliche. amir and hassan are the two protagonists in the story. amir is the son of baba, a wealthy and admired male widower while hassan is the hare-lipped hazara, people who are regarded as scum of the earth according to afghani history. anyway, hassan and his father, ali, are servants for baba and amir, but they are viewed as family. it's a refreshing departure from what could easily be a cinderlla-type plot.anyway, amir is this really smart, well-educated pansy who can't stand up for himself for shit and hassan always backs him up, even taking on 3 guys on his own. there's a little rivalry between the two boys, with amir constantly testing hassan's loyalty and scoffing at him for seeming to be such a sucker. but when shit turns serious, amir doesn't return the sentiment.the year that amir won a kite flying competition, hassan takes off for the last kite and ends up being cornered by child-sociopath, assef, and his cronies. when hassan refuses to give up the fallen kite, assef rapes him in an alley and amir watches the whole thing from a hiding place because he's too afraid to jump in and protect his friend.as i kept reading, cliches and implausible coincidences start popping up everywhere. it turns out that amir and hassan are half-brothers. (i think i saw that plot-twist in days of our lives once.) when amir goes back to afghanistan to save hassan's now-orphan son, that son is held captive by --guess who?-- none other than assef who has become part of the taliban. the novel climaxes with assef kicking amir's ass. and who saves amir? hassan's son! with a fucking slingshot! (hassan was skilled at that, too.) amir gets reconstructive surgery and ends up with a scar down his lip like hassan had when he had surgery for his hare-lip. good lord. then there was this brief encounter where amir comes across an old homeless guy who just happened to know amir's mother before she died giving birth to amir. how would that ever happen?to be fair, it had a really good storyline. i still maintain that the first third was well executed. the beginning of the book stands its ground well, but that may have just made the rest of the book pale in comparison even more so. it almost felt like the author was desperately reaching for the audience's acceptance (it's his first novel). or he hurried through the rest of the book and needed to increase the tear-jerker factor exponentially by making me cry at every page to cover up the fact that he was running out of quality ideas. on a positive note, it might add more depth to an already mysterious and often feared culture in light of 9/11.but when all is said and done, it's still an interesting read. final word on the kite runner: i can't wait for the movie adaptation. hollywood would eat that shit up.

Jackie Gill

** 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.

Dimah Kabbani

الطائفية مقيتة قاتلة ، أسلوب خالد حسيني جميل جداً، هزّ مشاعري  للغاية و جعلني أبكي مع كلّ كلمة خطّها في هذا الكتاب الجميل .. عداء الطائرة الورقية حقّاً تجعل كلّ ما قرأته قبلها فراغاً ..لا أعلم مالذي يجعل لإنسانٍ خاصةً الاطفال أي نوع من الأفضلية على إنسان آخر فقط لأجل الطائفة أو العرق أو الدين ، نحن الذين قال رسولنا"لا فضل لعربي على أعجمي إلا بالتقوى" .. حزنت على أفغانستان ، و حزنت على سوريا فحالها أشبه بحال أفغانستان أكثر من اي وقت مضى، و أرجو ربي أن يبعد الفتنة عنّا .. أرجوك يا ربي أنزل السكينة و المحبة في قلوبنا و أبعد عنا الفتن ..كتاب جميل يستأهل النجمات الخمس بكل جدارة و أنصح الجميع بقراءته فهو  يصنّف ضمن قائمة الكتب "العصيّة على النسيان" بعض الاقتباسات التي استرعت اهتمامي :" حدث هذا منذ زمن طويل ، لكنهم مخطئون فيما قالوه عن الماضي لقد تعلمت كيف أدفنه ، لكنه يجد دائماً طريق عودته " .." لن تتعلم شيئاً ذي قيمة من أولئك الحمقى ذوي اللحى ، حاملي الحق في جيوبهم ، لا يعرفون إلا الصلاة بمسابح يحركونها بإبهامهم ،  و قراءة كتب بلغة لا يفهمونها حتى ..فليرحمنا الله جميعاً اذا ما وقعت أفغانستان بين أيديهم ..." ...فليرحمنا الله ايضاً إذا ما وقعت سوريا بين أيديهم .. :("هنالك خطيئة ، خطيئة واحدة فقط هي السرقة ،و كل خطيئة أخرى هي وجه آخر للسرقة ،عندما تقتل رجلاً فأنت تسرق حياةً ، تسرق حقّ زوجة بزوج ،من أطفاله تسرق أباهم ..عندما تكذب تسرق حق شخص بالحقيقة ، عندما تغش تسرق حق العدالة ..""من الأفضل أن تؤلمك الحقيقة من أن تضحك على نفسك بالكذب ""شعرت بالذل من موقف القوة الذي حصلت عليه ،و ذلك بسبب أني ربحت يا نصيب الجينات الذي حدد جنسي" 

بثينة العيسى

التجلي الغامر لعظمة الأدب.

Elizabeth

I just remember there was a point when I thought to myself, I don't know if I can continue reading this. I love the portrayal of the relationship between Baba (Arabic for father) and his son. I also think that the fact that the main character is weak, and therefore more human, makes this book extremely touching. It's painful, but you see a little bit of yourself throughout the pages. Unless of course, you are perfect.

Jamie

Oakland Airport. Finished my last book...what more can I say? Okay, well I feel like a real jackass because I was, honestly, feeling pretty stupid reading this, hence the disclaimer above. It's like when I took the cover off the Da Vinci Code so nobody would know I was really reading it...but, um, holy cow this book was amazing. I was truly never bored, never skipped a passage, hung on every word, loved every character. I cried, really and truly cried during some of the sadder parts (no spoilers--although it was interesting to find Afgans care about the endings of things and there's no such thing as a "spoiler.")I knew nothing of this culture, which is probably sad, but I think I've taken great care to avoid it--I don't watch the news or anything, and I suppose it would be pretty absurd of me to think I've come to grips with the entire middle Eastern situation via a best seller (that's precisely why I hated people's thoughts on The Da Vinci Code--it made people who hadn't read a book in years suddenly want to talk about books, which should be a good thing but the book snob in me felt really offended by this, especially since there are other books, better books on the same subject matter--that book was really fun, I admit it, but seriously, it SUCKED all in all, let's be honest, it was sad to read, like if you had to hear some one with broken English recite The Lady of Shallot or something), but, I digress--anyway, it's just, for me, this was at least a bit enlightening (and I promise I'm not going to start soapboxing at coffee shops and thinking I'm an authority on Afgan culture now), and just...a fantastic read. This was a flawless bit of story telling combined with a really helpful look into a culture that's very much in the public-eye and kind of reassuring, really human sort of approach to providing some insight into a culture I knew nothing about and didn't really intend to research. Now I know I will--this book was a stepping stone and at least got me interested and that's exactly why I love reading and books, because this is what education SHOULD be, you know? You get a taste and then you get running...KITE running....ha ha.Okay, enough, but this book was amazing. I've never wanted to hug a child more than when I read this book. I NEED TO hug a child.

Mystique

I have some criticisms for this book, but because I chewed through it in such a short amount of time, I'll start with what I like and move to the criticisms.I did NOT want to like this book. I am one of those annoying people who wants to dislike what everyone else likes, and wants to like what everyone else dislikes. Usually, this works out for me without effort; however, in the world of literature there are occasions that it does not. This was one of those occasions.The book was brutally heartbreaking, but redemptive. Relationships were richly developed, emotions piqued and dropped - hallmarks of a good story. One of my favorite things in literature is learning. If I learn from a book, I consider it valuable. Bite-sized foreign languages lessons will bolster a book's merit. This author taught me about the history, language, and geography of Afghanistan, and about the sport/hobby of kite flying/kite running. I've always thought that a person just bought a kite and flew it. I've never heard of coating the string in cut glass to cut down other kites.The book has numerous other redeeming qualities that are likely to make it a classic read, but it does have some flaws. One thing that just kept annoying me toward the end of the book was the names of John/Thomas and Betty Caldwell. The first time they're mentioned, they're Thomas and Betty Caldwell. The next time, they're John and Betty Caldwell. WELL? Which are they?? Where was the editor on this one? No, it didn't affect the story, and it shouldn't affect me, but it did. I kept finding my thoughts drifting. Because they were never real characters, did the editor/author not find them integral to the plot? Did they have the same issues with Thomases and Johns that I have with Kamals and Kamirs? Perhaps they're unfamiliar with the names, and so it was easy to make the mistake? I admit, I was plagued. I thought about removing a star for it, but we only have 5 stars with which to work, so I didn't.The next flaw is perhaps in my own ignorance, but I can't imagine Assef being in the Taliban. The tale describes him as blonde and blue-eyed. I don't imagine him being part of a hate-group that targets Americans as infidels if he so closely resembles one, but I have also heard that there are blonde and blue-eyed Afghans, so perhaps this is my own ignorance shining through. I have Afghan friends, but none of them has blonde hair, or blue eyes. Further, Assef is absolute evil from an age at which I'm not convinced that any child has such a developed sense of hatred, especially when we consider that, upon meeting his parents, we find them timid. Again, this could be my own ignorance of children outside of my own culture, but it's a bit tough to swallow. I didn't find it too difficult to suspend my belief, but there wasn't too much else in the tale that required such suspension.Overall, the book has all of the ingredients needed to create a great tale - whether or not it required some belief-suspension and some editorial errors. When I complete a book in one sitting, I cannot convince myself that I didn't enjoy it. I must be true to the obvious and give it 5-stars.

MJ Nicholls

This is one strain of the virus we call Middlebrow Literature. Issuetastic fiction that turns up-to-date, politically loaded topical material into powerful works of stating the obvious whose aim is to educate the Uninformed or Casually Interested Westerner in the ways of another culture at a time when that culture or nation is under scrutiny, or has the western gaze upon it and needs to answer for itself in an accessible and heart-tugging manner. Now and then we will accept literature from far-off nations if said books reduce complex issues to the level of sentimental manipulation and utilise a stripped-down prose style dripping with enough faux-literariness so that it reads like actual “well-crafted and deeply felt” literature, as opposed to zeitgeist-catching aleatory drivel destined to fester in second hand shops and the shelves of bedtime readers the world over, as though suggesting its owner possesses a well-deep knowledge of the human heart over the unfeeling prick with his comic books and his Vonneguts who could never possibly understand the suffering of another if he doesn’t weep copious buckets at this morally juvenile, cheesy TV-movie atrocity posing as a work of literary art.

Janet

This novel fascinated me. It's a great example of the power of a good story. The author was a rookie, and he didn't yet have a solid command of the craft, but he certainly had something important to say. There are some big spoilers ahead, so if you're planning to read this one, you might want to stop here.I enjoyed the rich portrait of Afghani culture, both at home and in exile in the US. The story's time-frame before and after the Soviet invasion lets an American reader understand better what's been happening behind the headlines of the past thirty years, and I appreciated a glimpse into a world I know little about.The strongest and most memorable part of the book is the character of the narrator's father, Baba. He's a rich, stubborn, secular Afghani who swigs whiskey and makes his own rules. His strengths and flaws propel the entire acr of the story and dominate the narrator's life. What a complex and vivid force! I would teach this book for no other reason than to share Baba with my students. Beyond the father-son relationship, the story is built upon several other important and complicated male relationships. These involve deep, tangled emotional bonds of a sort rarely explored in contemporary American novels. But this is where the story's strength becomes a weakness. The first two-thirds of the novel reads as realism, but in the final act, when the protagonist returns to war-torn Afghanistan, the narrative demands quickly dominate what had been a character-driven story. There are too many coincidences, too many mirrored events, too many father-son doublings, and the bad guys from childhood return as grown-up forces of evil that can only be read allegorically. The symbolic load becomes too heavy for the individual characters to support. I was especially disturbed by the time I was presented with a second victim of child sexual abuse -- the son whose father had been brutally assaulted in the early part of the book. At that point I realized that the story had shifted into a fable of a country/people who had been systematically raped over two generations. This is a valid story and an important one to tell, but within the aesthetic parameters of this particular novel, the allegorical demands at the end almost crush the carefully constructed story about personal atonement. It doesn't help that the author shouts out to the reader several times, "See! The sins of the fathers are visited on the sons!" In the hands of a more experienced writer, realistic and allegorical threads can strengthen one another, but the human story should be primary, with the symbolic motifs worked into the fabric of the story rather than slapped on top.Where are the damn editors these days? I keep stumbling over fiction that is almost, but not quite, done. Half-baked novels are either exposed on mountainsides or rushed to market with massive promotional expense, and the decisions seem completely arbitrary. Why not spend a little more time and money polishing these works first? This fine book from a first-time novelist would have been far more powerful if the final section had been carefully revised. That said, I still think it's well worth reading, and I'm looking forward to watching the film adaptation.

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