Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Kite Runner

The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini

Kiterunner was somewhat of an impulse purchase and impulse read; I had seen it “around” on store shelves, bestseller lists, and had recently noticed it on an Advanced Placement English reading list. So, my curiosity got the best of me when I noticed a lone copy left on the Middle East display table of a new, local bookstore. It’s not as if I needed another book to read right now (see sidebar) but as I thumbed through it I could tell it would be a quick read, and though I don’t read many recently published novels these days, I did want to know what all the acclaim was about. How easily I forget The DiVinci Code.

With over 2000 reader reviews logged at Amazon, The Kite Runner hardly needs another one, but I'll go ahead and add my two cents, mostly because I'm not very good at reviewing books and need some practice.

Reading the coming of age story of Amir, a privledged Afghani living in Kabul inthe 1970s, was not without pleasure. Hosseini writes as an insider and I enjoyed reading descriptions based on childhood memories of his homeland. I also felt like a bit of an insider myself as I found I was able to understand most of the Farsi transliterations, being closely related to Arabic and the Eastern themes of shame and honor, amongs others, were not hard for me to relate to. Additionally, a significant part of the novel is set in Fremont, California, the city I lived in from 1975-1978; the author's mention of Lake Elizabeth, Washington Boulevard, Ohlone Junior College and the San Jose Flea Market sent me waxing nostalgic.

The Literary Review says of Hosseini and The KiteRunner: "His description of Amir's relationship with Hassan is beautifully nuanced, and the moment of Amir's ultimate betrayal is genuinely shocking." Now this is a comment I can agree with. Though meant to be an endorsing comment, as it is in the back of the book, and while I have other positive and negative things to say about this book, the shocking moment of ultimate betrayal is the where the book lost it charm for me--though I admittedly read to the end.

As I said, I don't read many current bestsellers so perhaps this sort of graphic description of the violation of a child is not unusual. It was heartbreaking to read but even more heartbreaking, to me, was the thought that young people are encouraged to read this book. I know these kinds of things and worse happen in our fallen world every day, but I can't believe that reading about them in this way does anything to develop the moral imagination of our youth. Or, of mine.

As for the rest of the book, the beginning, other than the betrayal, was an enjoyable enough read, though not great literature, to be sure, however by the last half of the book the plot had become predictable and implausible. Many reviewers mention, in some way, the theme of redemption--unfortunately the protaganist is his own redeemer and he is not quite up to the task.


Kathleen Hamilton said...

I had seen this book recommended on a few people's lists (people whose taste I generally admire), but I read several reviews and looked at the book for a while at Costco and decided against it. Reading your review, I'm glad I did. It is sad that it's on AP English lists. I'm very glad Connor is taking is AP English lit class through PA Homeschoolers!

Patti said...

Nice review, Melissa. I hadn't heard of the book. Or if I had, I had forgotten it. I either didn't know or didn't remember that you'd lived in Fremont. I grew up in Santa Clara and graduated from Wilcox High School in 1976.