The Kite Runner had been out for a couple of years before I finally read it. I avoided it for a couple of reasons. First, there was simply so much hype about the book that Khaled Hosseini was inescapable. I knew that the coverage was nothing like the Harry Potter or Twilight crazes had evoked, but I’m still skeptical of stuff that everyone seems to be talking about.
But of course I got around to reading it, and I read his other novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns, the next week. And then I was so ground down that I had to read a bunch of trashy pulp novels to recover.
Laugh riots these are not. I knew that going in, which was the second reason I had avoided Hosseini’s books for as long as I did.
That said, they are wonderful novels, and it is always nice to be able to learn some history through a more accessible narrative than most textbooks provide.
Summary of The Kite Runner
In early 1970s Afghanistan, the protagonist, Amir, is the won of a well-to-do citizen. His best friend is less fortunate, the son of one of their servants, but the two boys are close and inseparable. Then something horrible happens, which I can’t tell you. Their relationship changes drastically.
Amir winds up in America and becomes a successful writer. But he can’t ever completely shake the guilt of what happened all those years ago in Afghanistan. When he is given a reason to return to the land that is now under Taliban rule, the results are about as bleak as you’d expect.
It is a heartbreaking story that still gives me goosebumps if I think about it for too long, so I’m going to quit thinking about it.
A Thousand Splendid Suns Summary
The only thing that could have made Kite Runner more depressing to me would have been if it had revolved around the plight of women under Taliban rule. Luckily, Splendid Suns fills in the gaps with Mariam.
Mariam’s mother takes her own life. Afterward, Mariam winds up married to a 40 year old man who becomes increasingly violent toward her. The more that Hosseini reveals about The Taliban, the more horrifying her situation becomes. I cannot imagine feeling as trapped as she is for the duration of the book.
Her nasty husband eventually brings another woman into the house, and the bond that she and Mariam are able to form provide most of the book’s brief periods of tranquility.
But this is a book about dread, oppression, and injustice, and they are the major characters.
Not for the timid, but well worth the read.
I will be looking forward to each new book from an author I have come to admire greatly.