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The Kite Runner

A 2003 novel by Khaled Hosseini.

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A Tale to Cross Boundaries and Cultures

  • Jun 21, 2010
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Being multicultural myself, I have always been drawn to books that tell me about other countries and cultures, life experiences that are very different than mine. With current events what they are, I felt especially drawn to this book, The Kite Runner, a first novel by Khaled Hosseini, born in Kabul, Afghanistan, but living in the United States since 1980. Like so many Americans, I know little of this country, even as we are deeply embroiled in its affairs. I wanted to learn, to see, to better understand.

"I became what I am today at the age of twelve..." Hosseini begins, and I am already hooked. It is one of those opening lines that in simple and clear language speaks volumes. What could this profound and transformative experience be that it would change a man forever?

I ran breathlessly after Hosseini's kite runner through all the following pages. With an uncomplicated literary style, but masterful in storytelling skills, Hosseini kept me entranced for the full 400 pages. The story unfolds with two Afghan boys, similar in so many ways, yet different in those ways that can be crucial in the direction one's life takes and the opportunities and privileges one has. One of the boys, Amir, the narrator, lives a life of relative privilege, while the other, Hassan, is his servant. While through much of their play this class difference does not seem to affect them--indeed, in so many ways the servant boy seems superior in intellectual and emotional maturity, even if without the same level of education--their differences arise in situations that test a boy's mettle.

The string that binds this story together is the string of a kite. Apparently, a much loved activity for Afghan boys is kite flying, and that alone brings forth interesting descriptions of this sport. I had no idea, having flown one only once or twice in my own life, that a kite could be so expertly maneuvered and even used aggressively against another. Amir is a good kite flyer, but Hassan is an extraordinary kite runner. Never even looking up at the sky, Amir says, but almost as if by some inner sense knowing where the kite will fly and land. He runs for Amir, and he does so with utmost joy and devotion. He is not merely a servant to Amir, after all, but a devoted and utterly loyal friend.

It is during one such kite running episode, when Amir has won a tournament and longs for his father's reticent approval in doing so, that the reader sees what is in the heart of each boy, and of what their spines are made.

Hassan has run for the kite, determined to bring it back to Amir as trophy, to be presented to his father. Unfortunately, the town bullies catch up with him first. And there is that moment that changes lives, and with its domino effects, as such moments do, one moment of weakness turning into a lifetime of coping with guilt and consequences, even, eventually, to the death of grown men and an orphaned boy.

"A havoc of scrap and rubble littered the alley. Worn bicycle tires, bottles with peeled labels, ripped up magazines, yellowed newspapers, all scattered amid a pile of bricks and slabs of cement. A rusted cast-iron stove with a gaping hole on its side tilted against a wall. But there were two things amid the garbage that I couldn't stop looking at: One was the blue kite resting against the wall, close to the cast-iron stove ... " (page 75)

What brings greatness to this novel is that it finds those moments that reveal us, that change us, that direct our lives ever after. It could be argued that each and every moment that we draw a breath does so. Yet some moments do so more than others. Those difficult moments, those moments when we are faced with hard choices, those are the defining moments. We see in the next scene the crass difference between the hero and the coward. And because life is not drawn in black and white, we see also that cowards occasionally show heroic traits, and that guilt can weigh so heavily, that it, too, can become a force for good.

If there is escape in the more obvious ways, in place and distance and time, there is no escape from such defining moments. They follow us everywhere, they taint every day of our lives ever after. If they do not, then we belong to the group of human beings known as sociopaths and psychopaths--those without conscience. Those without hope. Amir, at least, burns with his shame and his guilt, and as life so often does, he comes to another difficult moment many years later when he can choose once again--hero or coward. He may have his redemption, perhaps, but the price is even higher.

Hosseini never releases his reader. Not one scene is unbelievable. Not one scene is out of place. Not one moment isn't important in some manner for this story to proceed, and take the reader along with it in vivid experience. Moments of choice are known to us in all cultures, but by the end of Hosseini's tale, we have learned something more about the Afghan culture, about the Taliban and the war and the cruelties of which man is capable, even as we see the true heroism of which, sometimes, the very same man can also be capable. We also witness the bad seed, the man with so much darkness in his soul that he is beyond redemption.

So often when we hear about a great book, our expectations are so high that we are bound to be disappointed. I had heard much. I was not disappointed. My only disappointment was in later watching the movie--even while true to the book, it lacked the author's fine nuances that brought the story to immediate life. Skip the movie. Do not miss the book.

~Zinta Aistars for The Smoking Poet, Summer 2010 Issue

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August 26, 2010
Great job on the review. THE KITE RUNNER and its companion by the same author, A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS, are two members of a very short list of books that I label as absolutely unforgettable!
August 26, 2010
Thank you... and agreed. I have yet to read the second book, but plan to. I did see the movie made from The Kite Runner, and I was disappointed. As usual, rich literary writing trumps the silver screen.
More The Kite Runner reviews
review by . April 18, 2010
What an extraordinary debut novel! "The Kite Runner" is two successes for the price of one - a compelling contemporary history of the travails of poverty-stricken, war torn Afghanistan and a heart-wrenching poignant family history touching on friendship, love, loyalty, culture shock, ethnicity, character, cowardice and bravery.       Amir is the son of a wealthy Kabul merchant and a Sunni Moslem. Hassan, the son of his father's servant, definitely born on the proverbial …
review by . June 23, 2010
This book was great in the beginning and the end. The middle got a little long. It is a very descriptive book. That is good in some cases and terrible in others. For example, I hated when the bullies did a little something to the servant (not using names or any details in case of a spoiler). I'm kind of queasy when it comes to that kind of thing. It was gross. I had trouble reading past that but had to because it was for school. My friend that was in my class thought the same thing. He thought …
review by . June 20, 2010
   I first read this book for a college class that i was attending. The book at first wasn't appealing at all. It looked long, but i had no choice but to read it. So i began and soon i was addicted to the book. I couldn't stop reading it. The book has a great plot with a touch of Afghanistan history in it. The story was great but before the book was discussed in class i didn't realize that there was a lot of other stuff within the story like the history, symbolism and stuff …
review by . June 15, 2010
An inspirational novel that truly captures the spirit of a boy growing up in war torn Afghanistan.  The author makes it easy to understand the traditions and lifestyle of the countrymen, while expressing the dangerous, exciting journey of one young Afghan.  The emotions of the protagonist and supporting characters can be felt through the words on the pages. The movie doesn't do as great of a job portraying the beauty of the culture because it focuses too much on the details of the …
review by . July 14, 2010
  Even I–who usually tries to steer clear of the groupthink of bestseller lists and the like–was vaguely familiar with Hosseini and his book The Kite Runner. Its major selling point for me was that it was about Afghanistan, a country I know little about except that which is fed to us via news services. Apparently this book has sold over 10 million copies, and that doesn’t include me, as I bought The Kite Runnersecondhand. Hosseini has written one subsequent …
Quick Tip by . October 01, 2010
This one really brought a different world and its issues into focus and brought them to life.
Quick Tip by . August 25, 2010
A powerful novel that is worth every second it takes to read it.
review by . June 16, 2010
I'm not kidding this is one of the best books I have ever read! The author does an amazing job with imagery, characterization, and plot to paint a beautiful, but painful picture of life in the middle east for a young boy who is torn between saving himself and saving others. The book is a page turner, and Im not going to lie, it is very emotional, and you might just find tears falling off your face. A great great book!
review by . June 04, 2010
In my opinion this was a well written book and a good story. i read it once in high school and then re read it years later. You can tell that the author really speaks from his heart in this story. It is a tragic tale that ends with redemption and what i thought to be if not happy at least a satisfactory ending.
review by . July 15, 2010
The book starts of introducing 2 boys Amir and Hassan, the book revolves around the fact that Amir flies a kite and how when he win's how Hassan protects his kite. Amir win's his fathers affection when winning the kite competition but it make him have both mixed feelings when his friend is holding the kite and an older bully named Assef trys to take  it, how he defends his friends winning kite with his life.This book show how when younger a person is immature and scared as a child but …
About the reviewer
Zinta Aistars ()
Ranked #134
I am the creative director, writer and editor at Z Word, LLC, and correspondent for southwest Michigan's NPR affiliate station, where I do on-air author interviews.
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About this book


The Kite Runner is a novel by the author Khaled Hosseini. Published in 2003 by Bloomsbury Publishing plc, it is Hosseini's first novel, and was adapted into a film of the same name in 2007.

The Kite Runner tells the story of Amir, a young boy from the Wazir Akbar Khan district of Kabul, who betrayed his best friend Hassan, the son of his father's Hazara servant, and lives in regret. The story is set against a backdrop of tumultuous events, from the fall of the monarchy in Afghanistan through the Soviet invasion, the mass exodus of refugees to Pakistan and the United States, and the rise of the Taliban regime.

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ISBN-10: 1594480001
ISBN-13: 978-594480003
Author: Khaled Hosseini
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Date Published: June 2003
ISBN: ISBN 1-59448-000-1
Format: Paperback
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1984 (British first edition)




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