Book Review: The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Official FC Rating:
I read The Kite Runner a few months ago. It's been recommended to me countless times over the years and it's just been sitting on my shelf, neglected. I picked it up one night, resolved to read "anything but Harry Potter, come on Charlotte," and tore through it over the next twelve hours. Needless to say, it was good. It was gripping. I couldn't put it down - you get it. All that good stuff.
But. I don't know if I can say I loved it. I remember sending messages to Liz that said things such as, "I can't remember ever hating a protagonist this much before," and "I know he's a kid but I HATE HIM." Amir was not my favorite.
(Plot details and spoilers coming. You're warned.)
Amir is always a little (nay, a lot) jealous of his friend, Hassan. Amir's father is good to Hassan, and Amir wishes his relationship with his father was different, better. Cool, I get it, and everyone's a little envious from time to time. I'm not gonna hate the kid for that. (And I know Hosseini was specifically interested in exploring family and familial relationships with his book.) But Amir was a terrible friend and child. I don't remember every specific example, but Amir taunted Hassan, dared him to do awful things, and was overall just mean. Have I mentioned how much I hated him at this point? It only got worse. Amir witnessed Hassan getting raped and beaten and he did nothing to help. Part of me is disgusted by this, and another part of me thinks he was a kid, what was he going to do? But there's no excusing the fact that he didn't run for help, that he treated his friend poorly after that, and that he ultimately made Hassan and his father leave. Oh man. The hatred I felt for him.
The story afterward is one of guilt and redemption. I'm all about redemption... but I don't think Amir ever fully redeemed himself. Hassan dies and his son is in trouble and Amir sets out to save him (though sort of grudgingly at first). He succeeds at great personal cost - he gets the crap beat out of him. Like, hospital/almost dead/ICU level beating. In my mind this was a step forward but it wasn't total "redemption." He still kept the secret of what he did to Hassan to himself. He didn't fully apologize. When I was reading it felt more like an attempt to assuage his own guilt and to do the right thing in the present. For me redemption also involves confessing and apologizing, so.. the story felt unfinished. Toward the end of the book I still wasn't too fond of Amir. I don't like not liking the protagonist of a book I'm reading. Finally, Amir confessed his actions to his wife. This felt a little more full-circle to me, though... I don't know. I can't remember if he ever truly apologized?
A story that's specifically about redemption, to me, needs to include actual sorrow, confession, and an apology. Amir seemed more concerned about his own guilty mind than he did about the wrongdoing itself. I would have liked more sincerity in his confessions, as well as a true apology. That's ultimately why I gave this book three stars (maybe three and a half if I'm feeling generous).
That said, it was a good book. It was an exciting read that pulls you in. Some of the characters were lovable (I'm looking at you, Baba and Ali and Rahim Khan). It was interesting and thought provoking and pulled at the heartstrings. As far as I can remember, the writing itself was good.
Final say: I'd recommend this book. I mean, don't expect to feel all cheerful while reading it. And maybe expect to spend most of it hating the main character. But read it nonetheless. It's good.