Around the World in 80 Books,  Thoughts on Books

Afghanistan: The Kite Runner

Recently, some friends and I decided to start a book club where we are reading books from around the world.

You can find the list we are using here. It is called “Around the World in 80 Books” and I will dedicate a new category on my blog in its honour. I hope you will enjoy taking the journey with us.

For the first month, we decided to read the Afghanistan pick “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini.

I, unfortunately, didn’t get around to finishing the book, but my friends Elri, Macy, and Rachel all wrote reviews for you to enjoy:

(Please note each review brings a unique perspective and style. I purposely left the instructions vague and decided to do very little editing so that they could bring their individuality to the page. Each review is beautiful and I believe the three in combination will help you to decide whether or not it is the book for you).

Elri’s Thoughts

“Well,” I began. But I never got to finish that sentence.  

Because suddenly Afghanistan changed forever.

About this book:

The Kite Runner follows the story of Amir, a young boy from a wealthy household in Afghanistan, as he recalls his troubled journey through childhood to adulthood during the turmoil that would come to characterize his country. It touches one issues like class, race, friendship, and the unspeakable things that people do to gain power. Oh, and there are kites and running after said kites-it’s kind of an important plot point. 

Quality of writing:

Overall, I found the writing to be really good. From the vivid descriptions of Afghanistan that could only come from firsthand experience, to the flawed and slightly infuriating character that I came to be quite fond of. It all flowed together really well, with the exception of a few points in the middle of the book where it took a longer detour than I felt was necessary.

My Personal Thoughts:

I was hooked on this book by the time I finished reading the first two lines:

“I became what I am today at the age of twelve, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975. I remember the precise moment, crouching behind a crumbling mud wall, peeking into the alley…”

That being said, once I had read a chunk of the book in one sitting, I had to put it down. This is not necessarily a reflection on the writing, the story just got really heavy and as such I went through a rollercoaster of emotions raging from anger, disgust, and sadness to cautious happiness. So be warned, this is not an ideal escapism read, unless you’re wanting to direct your conflicted pandemic-related emotions at something other than COVID-19.  

The only thing I would have added to this book was a trigger warning for sexual assault. While these scenes were not super graphic, it is still deeply upsetting and unsettling. 

Why You Should Read This Book:

I think this book is worth reading. It deals with real, and often traumatic issues, but it also gives so much insight into Afghanistan. Not the one war-stricken one showcased in mainstream media, but the country it was before, and might be again… 

Rachel’s Thoughts

The Kite Runner seems to be a good portrayal of Afghanistan culture. From a perspective of what Afghanistan was like for a boy before the war. And from that same boy’s perspective later on in the war-torn country.

Khaled Hosseini wove his memories into this book. The smell of spicy meat kabobs. The taste of juicy pomegranate. The sound of kites flying through the breeze. What it was like to flee from home. What it was like to integrate into a new culture.

What does the remorse of betrayal feel like? How does it affect a person’s life? The book seeks to answer these questions in a shocking and uncomfortable way.

Beware of the raw and ugly reality of human nature exposed by the main plot. If you choose to read this book, read with eyes wide open. Learn what there is to learn and look for the redemptive aspect.

Macy’s Thoughts

For you, a thousand times over.

Perhaps the most iconic quote of the book. Proof of undying love and affection, unconditional devotion: reflection of Christ’s diligent love for His children.

The Kite Runner brought me to tears more than once. Most particularly touching was the devotion of Hassan to his friend and master, Amir. Who, to say the least, did not deserve it. The opening chapters reveal that Hassan and Amir are not mere childhood playmates, but master and servant, bound by their fathers’ relationship – also that of master and servant. Amir’s subtly spoiled nature causes him to toy with Hassan’s loyalty: “Really? You’d do that? …Eat dirt if I told you to?”

And Hassan’s precious response: “If you asked, I would.”

To the bitter end, Hassan is loyal to the undeserving Amir, bearing the worst humiliation and torture one human can endure from another, out of unswerving loyalty to his dear friend. 

Recalling this scene gnaws at my heart. 

The beautiful childhood companionship is then torn brutally apart, never to be repaired.

Years pass; Hassan and Amir have the potential of being reunited. Now into adulthood, Amir has left the country and formed a new life; Hassan has remained and has also grown to build his own family. Hassan remained faithful to Amir, telling sweet stories of their friendship to his son, never allowing bitterness to seep into his heart. The reader is propelled along in suspense: would there be a sweet reunion?

But hope is shattered when the reader learns of the brutal murders of Hassan and his wife. Reconciliation will never happen.

A change of heart takes place in Amir, subtly, gradually. Instead of running from his guilt, he acknowledges his brokenness. Gives room for healing. Welcomes into his life the son of his dear friend as his own.

The pain this book holds is quite nearly too much to bear. Hassan’ loyalty to Amir has haunted me. May God give us such humble loyalty, such selflessness, such willingness to die to ourselves for the good of others, for the glory of God. I’m reminded of the description of Christ seen in Philippians: 

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (2:6-8) 

Christ has borne the worst humiliation and physical pain one can endure for another. In innocence, deserving none of it. Hassan gives us a picture of this. But choosing loyalty to His children, He took our punishment. Died in our place. May we live in the freedom of that forgiveness to love and serve others with the same selfless humility.

Final Comment from AJ

I tried to get into this book but it was a hard month for me and I couldn’t face the trauma I could sense this book was going to detail. I hope to one day be able to get back to the book with a refreshed mind.

From my friends’ reviews I can tell the book gave them a beautiful glimpse of Afghanistan and I think we are all pleased to be taking this journey together.

Next month, we will be reading “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” which is set in Malawi.

Please feel free to join us and to let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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