The Kite Runner is Khaled Hosseini's best-selling first novel. It is the very first novel in English by an Afghan, in which a thirty-eight-year-old writer named Amir recounts the odyssey of his life from Kabul to San Francisco via Peshwar, Pakistan. The protagonist was born into a wealthy family in Kabul. Raised by his father, his mother having passed away during his birth, Amir lives a relatively happy life until the Soviet tanks roll into Afghanistan. Then he and his family flee to Pakistan and end up in America. In the United States, his father becomes a gas-station manager, selling junk on weekends with his son at the San Jose flea market. Amir meets Soraya, the daughter of a former Afghan general, and soon ties the knot with her.
For fifteen years the young couple tries in vain to have children. Then Amir receives a call from Rahim Khan, a friend and former business partner of his now-deceased father. Amir flies to Peshwar to meet with him. Rahim Khan reveals that Hassan, Amir's childhood friend, the presumed son of the family servant Ali, was in reality Amir's half-brother, his father's illegitimate son with Ali's wife. Hassan and his wife were killed by the Taliban. Rahim Khan wants Amir to go to Kabul and bring Hassan's son to Peshwar. After much hesitation, Amir goes to Kabul and frees his nephew from the clutches of an unscrupulous child molester. Later he brings the child to America for adoption.
This lucidly written and often touching novel gives a vivid picture of not only the Russian atrocities but also those of the Northern Alliance and the Taliban. It is rightly a "soaring debut," as the Boston Globe claims, but only if we consider it a novel of sin and redemption, a son trying to redeem his father's sin. As far as the Afghan conflict is concerned, we get a selective, simplistic, even simple-minded picture. Hosseini tells us, for example, that "Arabs, Chechens, Pakistanis" were behind the Taliban. He does not mention the CIA or Zbigniew...
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