Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini (9/10)
An emotional historical-fiction that tells the story of a young boy growing up in Kabul in Afghanistan
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⛰ What It's About
Kite Runner tells the story of Amir, a kid who grows up in Kabul. He's raised by his wealthy, successful and well-respected father, 'Baba'. Amir and his father live with two "hazaras" - another father and son duo (Hassan and Ali).
Baba and Ali also grew up together, and Amir and Hassan do too. Their lives are incredibly intertwined. It's very clear Baba loves Amir, but he's never really welcomed him and loved him very openly - it's been a form of tough love. Baba has always also been quite generous and affectionate to Hassan (as well as everyone else in society).
Eventually, Amir wins a huge Kite tournament resulting in him also winning his father's love, affection and respect. After winning the tournament, however, he witnesses Hassan being raped by Assef, a local bully, because he was 'running Amir's kite'. Amir fails to stand-up for Hassan and do anything to stop the rape, even though Hassan has always historically stood-up for Amir. As a result, Amir develops a tormenting amount of guilt and really loses his shit. Eventually, things reach a breaking point and Amir ends his friendship with Hassan.
The book touches on all aspect of family, tragedy, drama, etc. It's a very riveting story set against the backdrop of the tumultuous events Afghanistan and the surrounding region go through during the 70s-00s (from the fall of Afghanistan's monarchy through the Soviet military intervention, the exodus of refugees to Pakistan and the US, and the rise of the Taliban).
Eventually, Amir and Baba migrate to California. The latter half of the book is centred around Amir's attempts to atone for his guilt about the rape he failed to prevent.
🔍 How I Discovered It
Famous book. On Goodreads etc.
I didn't enjoy the book immediately and found it a little hard to relate to. The further I got into the plot, however, the more I got sucked in. It's deep, meaningful, thoughtful and well-written. It's fun at times, too. As an Armenian from Turkey living in London, I loved the comments about food, resonated with the migration to the West, and understood the family values and mindset and devotion.
🥰 Who Would Like It?
Young adults. Especially second or third generation migrants.
💬 Favourite Quotes
- "For you, a thousand times over."
- "Children aren't colouring books. You don't get to fill them with your favourite colours."
- "When you kill a man, you steal a life. You steal a wife's right to a husband, rob his children of a father. When you tell a lie, you steal someone's right to the truth. When you cheat, you steal the right to fairness. There is no act more wretched than stealing."
- "...she had a voice that made me think of warm milk and honey."
- "All my life, I'd been around men. That night, I discovered the tenderness of a woman."
- "America was a river, roaring along unmindful of the past. I could wade into this river, let my sins drown to the bottom, let the waters carry me someplace far. Someplace with no ghosts, no memories, and no sins. If for nothing else, for that I embraced America."
- In the late 1960s, when I was five or six, Baba decided to build an orphanage. I heard the story through Rahim Khan. He told me Baba had drawn the blueprints himself despite the fact that he’d had no architectural experience at all. Skeptics had urged him to stop his foolishness and hire an architect. Of course, Baba refused, and everyone shook their heads in dismay at his obstinate ways. Then Baba succeeded and everyone shook their heads in awe at his triumphant ways. Baba paid for the construction of the two-story orphanage, just off the main strip of Jadeh Maywand south of the Kabul River, with his own money. Rahim Khan told me Baba had personally funded the entire project, paying for the engineers, electricians, plumbers, and labourers, not to mention the city officials whose “moustaches needed oiling.” It took three years to build the orphanage. I was eight by then. I remember the day before the orphanage opened, Baba took me to Ghargha Lake, a few miles north of Kabul. He asked me to fetch Hassan too, but I lied and told him Hassan had the runs. I wanted Baba all to myself. And besides, one time at Ghargha Lake, Hassan and I were skimming stones and Hassan made his stone skip eight times. The most I managed was five. Baba was there, watching, and he patted Hassan on the back. Even put his arm around his shoulder. We sat at a picnic table on the banks of the lake, just Baba and me, eating boiled eggs with kofta sandwiches—meatballs and pickles wrapped in naan. The water was a deep blue and sunlight glittered on its looking glass–clear surface. On Fridays, the lake was bustling with families out for a day in the sun. But it was midweek and there was only Baba and me, us and a couple of longhaired, bearded tourists—“hippies,” I’d heard them called. They were sitting on the dock, feet dangling in the water, fishing poles in hand. I asked Baba why they grew their hair long, but Baba grunted, didn’t answer. He was preparing his speech for the next day, flipping through a havoc of handwritten pages, making notes here and there with a pencil. I bit into my egg and asked Baba if it was true what a boy in school had told me, that if you ate a piece of eggshell, you’d have to pee it out. Baba grunted again.
- The wives and daughters served dinner—rice, kofta, and chicken qurma—at sundown. We dined the traditional way, sitting on cushions around the room, tablecloth spread on the floor, eating with our hands in groups of four or five from common platters. I wasn’t hungry but sat down to eat anyway with Baba, Kaka Faruq, and Kaka Homayoun’s two boys. Baba, who’d had a few scotches before dinner, was still ranting about the kite tournament, how I’d outlasted them all, how I’d come home with the last kite. His booming voice dominated the room. People raised their heads from their platters, called out their congratulations. Kaka Faruq patted my back with his clean hand. I felt like sticking a knife in my eye.
- HIS HANDS ARE TIED BEHIND HIM with roughly woven rope cutting through the flesh of his wrists. He is blindfolded with black cloth. He is kneeling on the street, on the edge of a gutter filled with still water, his head drooping between his shoulders. His knees roll on the hard ground and bleed through his pants as he rocks in prayer. It is late afternoon and his long shadow sways back and forth on the gravel. He is muttering something under his breath. I step closer. A thousand times over, he mutters. For you a thousand times over. Back and forth he rocks. He lifts his face. I see a faint scar above his upper lip. We are not alone. I see the barrel first. Then the man standing behind him. He is tall, dressed in a herringbone vest and a black turban. He looks down at the blindfolded man before him with eyes that show nothing but a vast, cavernous emptiness. He takes a step back and raises the barrel. Places it on the back of the kneeling man’s head. For a moment, fading sunlight catches in the metal and twinkles. The rifle roars with a deafening crack. I follow the barrel on its upward arc. I see the face behind the plume of smoke swirling from the muzzle. I am the man in the herringbone vest. I woke up with a scream trapped in my throat.