When I posted a picture of The Kite Runner as my status on WhatsApp, a friend of mine, an avid reader too, told me she would never read it or any of Khaled Hosseini’s books anymore. She told me that The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns made her cry when she read them.
At Adam’s Pages, where I bought the book, I was told to get tissue papers whenever I wanted to start reading it, or something like that. I’d dismissed the advice with a smile and a claim: that I don’t cry when I read. But although I’d read A Thousand Splendid Suns before I bought The Kite Runner, and although I don’t see myself in any way as lachrymose, I felt a frisson of fear when I wanted reading it. I thought, What if it makes me cry?
The Kite Runner is a story of Amir and Hassan, two boys born in an Afghanistan yet to be torn by war. Growing up, Amir and Hassan are inseparable, happy, as though life is all about their togetherness. Together they lead their lives in the same house, participating in kite-running tournaments. One day, they win a tournament, and what happens after that changes their lives forever.
In the Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini paints a heart-rending picture of friendship, loss, betrayal and redemption. We learn of what went on in war-torn Afghanistan. In between the story comes Amir’s father, Baba; Rahim Khan and members of Amir’s extended family. Also, Hassan’s “father,” Ali, and other characters are weaved together to lay bare the Afghanistan of the 70s, 80s and 90s.
As it turned out, I didn’t cry, but I felt sad. I felt pain in my chest when Amir betrays Hassan. I felt I could throttle Amir had he not been a fictional character. But my anger towards Amir was a self-righteous one. I’m like him, in so many ways. Never had I read a book whose main character shares so many attributes with me. I forgave Amir; it felt good doing so. It was like forgiving myself too.
I felt for Amir. It’s so sad that he goes through all he has to go through to redeem himself and to make up for his fallibility.
Khaled Hosseini has shown that despite the scabrous surfaces of our lives, that despite the permanent holes of pain and loss riddled into our hearts, there’s a reason to smile after all. Amir does smile at the end of the story. So does Sohrab.
Although I think that his second book came out far better than The Kite Runner, Hosseini’s book is a masterpiece. He’s an inimitable storyteller. If you want to understand what redemption truly is, read The Kite Runner, and perhaps other books by the same author. You can’t afford not to.