Published: 2007 by Seal Books | Pages: 324
1970s Afghanistan: Twelve-year-old Amir is desperate to win the local kite-fighting tournament and his loyal friend Hassan promises to help him. But neither of the boys can foresee what will happen to Hassan that afternoon, an event that is to shatter their lives. After the Russians invade and the family is forced to flee to America, Amir realises that one day he must return to an Afghanistan under Taliban rule to find the one thing that his new world cannot grant him: redemption.
This novel talks about friendship, and how fragile people, emotions and those friendships can realistically be. Overall, the story takes the reader on an emotional roller coaster. At first, you are invited into a foreign land where you learn about Afghan culture and tradition – this sets the scene and the context for the novel beautifully. We are welcomed into Amir and Hassan’s world, where the rich and poorer classes live side by side in Amir’s home as Amir’s father; Baba and Ali (their servant), who are old friends live together with the two boys. A key piece of information revealed later in the book is that Hassan is actually Amir’s brother, which increases the emotional tension to yet another level.
From the start it is clear that out of the two boys, Amir, although educated and wealthy, seems to be the more emotional and sensitive. Hassan, on the other hand is gutsy, and to be honest, I felt myself rooting for him on many occasion. Especially after the key event within the novel.
Obviously, the key event within the novel is Hassan’s rape. This is shocking, the writing handles the situation with delicateness, but also manages to convey the horror, and pain felt by Hassan through this violation. It had me in tears on the bus, and really affected the way I continued to read the rest of the novel. I think Hosseini manages to make the reader take care as they progress throughout the novel, and really plays on the role of guilt.
As a reader you feel so angry and frustrated towards Amir, that on times I really wanted to shout “For god sake, have a bit of fight in you,” to Amir. He could have so easily tried to help Hassan in the horrible attack by the older boys. Not only does the novel, expose Amir’s weaknesses, but also throws a light on Hassan’s inner strength. Initially, the shame of rape plays a massive role in Hassan’s gradual decline from Afghan society. This is highlighted when Amir returns to his home country years later, and learns of Hassan’s eventual passing. Hassan lived in a small village away from general society, managed to overcome his childhood trauma, marry, and have a son. All things that seem to cause tension and stress within Amir’s life (apart from his marriage to Soraya).
Compared to Hassan’s seemingly quick decline within the book, Amir’s journey goes up and down. The reader feels an uplifting idea of hope when he and Baba move to America, hoping that the guilt from his past is eased somewhat. But no, it seems Amir is not going to be allowed an easy ride – yes his marriage to Soraya seems perfect, all the parent agree, but then Hassan is faced with multiple problems.
Baba passes away, children cannot be conceived and Ali sends for Amir to visit Afghanistan. Not only does Amir have to finally overcome his guilt regarding Hassan’s rape by fighting those boys, now men who were responsible, and almost dies, but also adopts Hassan’s orphaned son. It seems that eventually Hassan has some form of redemption
Overall, I would give this book 4 stars as the emotional hardship running throughout the book really makes the reader connect to the characters. A gritty read!