The Kite Runner
The Kite Runner is one of the best books I have read. In essence, it is a tale of guilt and redemption but is written with such honesty and simplicity that it turns out to be a true roller coaster ride of emotions and feelings.
The book is populated with some of the most vivid and beautifully-realised characters I have ever come across in a book. Hosseini's descriptions of their physical and character traits make them so complete that they seem to jump right off the pages. We picture them in our minds and get the feeling that we've actually known them all our life. We form an emotional bond with them and that makes everything they go through surprisingly real. The narrator's guilt, his father's pride, his friend's loyalty - these characteristics make them living, breathing people we get to know intimately.
The story provides the opportunity for the characters to run through a gamut of emotions and Hosseini's talent lies in describing these emotions with great clarity. This leads to some very powerful sequences. The 'big' sequences are expected. They are designed to get a reaction from us. But there are several smaller, unexpected incidents that have a similar impact. My favorite was one towards the end of the book where the author feels good about gifting his watch to the children in the house he stays in before realizing just how wrong he was about what they wanted. Moments like this truly make the book soar.
The book's big surprise is easily predicted but it still hides a number of smaller surprises in its pages. But the big surprise helps the book traverse a path that illustrates the truth in the 'Circle of Life' concept. As similar events get replayed, with some old and some new players, the book achieves a sense of real closure. The ending is still not definitive but hints at positive beginnings in a way that is truly exhilarating.
The book could easily stand on its own as a character-driven tale. But the Afghanistan setting adds something special to the mix. The unique culture lends a nice flavor to the proceedings early on and the tumultous changes the country went through provides a fascinating backdrop to the story. It is obvious Hosseini loves his country and he brings its decline before our eyes with his descriptions of both its land and its people. The state of the country when he returns also adds a sense of adventure and urgency to the proceedings.
Regular readers, move this book right to the top of your to-read list. And non-readers, give this book a shot to understand the sheer pleasure that arises out of immersing yourself in a good book.
PS: As a side note, the book included a few things familiar to me. The kite-flying contest includes a description of how to make manja - bringing back memories of the days of kite-flying from the mottai maadi of our house in Madras. And in America, the action is set in the neighboring city of Fremont.
PS2: Thanks to Mitr for bringing the book to my notice.