Starting off in the mid 197Os and narrated through the eyes of the protagonist, Khaled Hosseini's debut novel The Kite Runner is a searing tale that manages to weave complex, multilayered characters and their emotional struggles and triumphs against the backdrop of political turmoil that engulfed Afghanistan under Soviet rule and the oppressive Taliban regime that succeeded them.
The Kite Runner follows the lives of Amir, born into a wealthy Pashtun family in Kabul and Hassan, a lowly Hazara boy and son of Amir's father's servant. The two kids grow up together and are inseparable till a shocking incident that scars both their lives permanently forces them to go their own ways. Fates intervenes and years later Amir, who has since settled down in the US, revisits Afghanistan on a mission that will set right a wrong, a mission which will exorcise ghosts of the past and in the process discovers truths unknown to him. To reveal more would be gross injustice on my part to this surprisingly gripping first effort so I'll let you read the book and figure it out yourself.
For the first half and a little more, The Kite Runner chugs along in fairly predictable manner (I was almost tempted to think that its a Bollywood plot) and Hosseini invests a lot of time and detail in patiently building up the silent yet strong friendship between the two kids, the strained relationship that Amir shares with his father and the socio-political climate in the country. As the novel progresses towards its second half, it becomes more of an intense, emotional drama and we begin to realise that it is all about sin and redemption. The Kite Runner might not go down in the annals of English literature as an all time classic but is definitely worth a read for the following reasons
All the characters are so lifelike that one is easily tempted to think of the book as a memoir rather than a novel.
At the heart of the story, if one is careful enough to read between the lines, is a silent lesson about the value and impact of individual cultures without any biases and prejudices.
The end is the kind which will neither give you a false sense of forced happiness nor have you shedding bucket loads of tears - it manipulates your sentiments just about enough to give you a lump in your throat at the same time making one understand why it had to end that way.