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Book Review: The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

MacPharlain enjoys reading good books from many genres. His favorite is historical fiction and his favorite author is Patrick O'Brian.

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The Kite Runner

Afghanistan has been a major part of the news for the last decade. Like most people, it's a country that I knew little about.

Then my wife read The Kite Runner and highly recommended it to me. She knows I have high standards for good historical fiction, so her recommendation meant a lot. I'm glad she told me about it.

The Kite Runner is the first novel by Afghan author Khaled Hosseini. It's a well written and tragic story that engages the reader as it paints a picture of life growing up in Afghanistan.

This is my review of the book.

Plot Summary of "The Kite Runner"

What's this book about?

The Kite Runner is about a boy named Amir growing up in Afghanistan. His father is a wealthy businessman and his best friend, Hassan, is one of their servants. The story is told by Amir as he recounts his life growing up in Kabul during the Afghan monarchy.

Even though Hassan is his closest friend and loyal servant, Amir delights in tricking the uneducated Hassan at every opportunity. Amir has the chance to redeem himself one tragic night and defend Hassan from neighborhood thugs. Instead he cowers behind a corner and watches the brutal act. Driven by shame for his cowardice and tormented by Hassan's continued loyalty, Amir shuns Hassan and eventually betrays him.

After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan Amir flees the country with his father and they find their way to the Afghan community outside of San Francisco. There Amir tries to forget his past and begin a new life.

Then a phone call in 2001 from an old family friend in Afghanistan offers Amir "a way to be good again" with a last chance to redeem himself.

Thoughts About "The Kite Runner"

There are a few bright moments but much of The Kite Runner is sad and tragic. It's heart breaking to read about a country destroyed by civil war, invasion and then the Taliban who hid behind religious extremism to brutalize and oppress the Afghan people. The political events provide a crucial background to the story and you can feel the loss of normal life for people there as events unfold.

Amir struggles for his father's affection and you feel sorry for him at first. But his treatment and eventual betrayal of Hassan make you really dislike Amir by the middle of the book. It's a feeling which never fully goes away although I was pulling for him near the end. That was more for Hassan's sake than Amir's though.

Hassan on the other hand is very likable...thoughtful, good natured and always loyal to Amir. His frequent response of "For you, a thousand times over" to Amir reminded me of Westley in The Princess Bride who answered every request with "as you wish."

Historical and Cultural Elements of the Book

One reason I enjoyed reading The Kite Runner is the setting. It's the first story I've read about life in Afghanistan. Don't worry, it's not a history lesson, but you will learn about Afghan culture, traditions and some history.

I know very little about Afghan history and was hoping when I started reading that the book would go into a lot of historical detail. After reading, I'm glad it didn't. The story of the relationships Amir has with his father and Hassan take center stage...as it should. The history is a background element to give context and depth to the story and Hosseini does a good job of weaving it in.

I did learn a lot about kite fighting and kite running which I had never heard of before. Apparently they are very popular sports in some countries.

What I Liked About "The Kite Runner"...

  1. Hosseini uses a very descriptive writing style that brings to life the sights, sounds and smells of life in Afghanistan and the Afghan community in the US.
  2. I found myself really caring about what happened to the characters and developed some emotions for them...both good and bad.
  3. The historical events are woven in seamlessly. They provide background without overwhelming the story.

Before You Read...

There are some disturbing scenes of violence and abuse in the book but they are important elements of the story and not gratuitous or exceedingly graphic.

Learn More About The Author - Khaled Hosseini

Here are links to more info about the author. It's hard to believe this was his first novel.

My Rating of "The Kite Runner"

I enjoyed reading the The Kite Runner and give it 4 stars. It's an emotional story that draws you in and I wanted to read it straight through in one shot.

While it didn't make me an expert on Afghanistan, reading this book did give me a better perspective on its people and history.

Now it's your turn...what did you think of The Kite Runner? Please share your critique in the comments below.

Your Review

ismeedee on June 30, 2012:

Your review does justice to what I think is an excellent book!

natashaely on June 19, 2012:

I read this book as part of a book group I belonged to a few years back. It had been built up with so much hype and I am often reluctant to follow the mainstream in what i read but as it was a book of the month i had to read it. I was so glad that I did as it was a such a moving book and I cried with the raw emotion It was beautifully written and I found it a powerful book that gave a me a small amount of understanding into a culture I know so little about.

Your review is great and I have had this up for the vote twice in my reading group and it will be added to SEptember as I think everyone should read it. Another excellent page.

darciefrench lm on October 10, 2011:

I read the Kite Runner recently and agree, it's an excellent book. Many thanks for sharing.

JenniferAkers LM on February 26, 2010:

I love your review on The Kite Runner. Great lens, which builds around your book review but adds more detail (like info on Kite Running, author Khaled Hosseini, the movie, etc) than a typical review can offer. 5*!

crodriguez08 on September 08, 2009:

Nice review.

Rusty Quill on September 06, 2008:

Very well done! Welcome to Review Central, this is a mighty fine addition to the group.

fefe42 on April 19, 2008:

I haven't read the book yet but will put it on my reading list. I saw it in Starbucks a few days ago. :)

TheBookGarden1 on March 24, 2008:

It was a good book and I'm looking forward to seeing the film, but I'd been spoiled by being introduced to the area and people in the awesomely amazing book Shantram.

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