This is an interestingly complex book. Simple yet complex. The Kite Runner is a tale of two friends, Amir and Hassan. It traces a lifelong friendship that explores layers comprised of betrayal, love, redemption, guilt and atonement. The complexity of the book lies in its characters. All apart from Hassan (who is incredibly flat and uncomplicated) is morally compromised, either seeking redemption from a past they were running from or holding on to a past that has long gone.

Amir is an only son of the widely loved Baba, grows up with Hassan, a member of the abused and marginalized Hazara minority in Afghanistan. Hassan is both a servant and best friend to Amir. His loyalty to Amir is unquestionable and pure but Amir with his inherent class privilege struggles to replicate the same loyalty to Hassan. His struggle comes to a head when he betrays Hassan when he (Hassan) is sexually violated by a local bully. The rest of the book is an attempt at atonement and redemption.

As a travelogue, the book is a refreshing exploration of Afghanistan just before and during the start of the Taliban reign. On another level, it has its pulse on the migration of middle-class persons from a failing republic to the West. On that note, a bulk of it is a very observant work of migrant fiction. The choices that Baba and the General have to choose from, the new status in a new country that their egos have to adjust to and the cultural shocks that they all have to contend with are all subplots in this well-written novel.

While the last chapters of the book verge more towards melodramatic action than anything else, the end is salvaged by the willingness of the author to give an untidy closure to the open points rather than tie it all up to give a happy ending. Issues of morality rarely have clean closures in real life and in The Kite Runner, the protagonist, Amir, does not get the happy ending he desires. Good read and recommended.


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