Thursday, March 19, 2015

the kite runner

the kite runner
khaled hosseini
published 2002

The unforgettable, heartbreaking story of the unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father's servant, The Kite Runner is a beautifully crafted novel set in a country that is in the process of being destroyed.  It is about the power of reading, the price of betrayal, and the possibility of redemption: and an exploration of the power of fathers over sons - their love, their sacrifices, their lies.

This is one of those books that I generally steer away from.  Books I label 'socially conscious' books.  I don't even think that's a real term, but it's always what I think of when books like this.  To me it means that this book is about something we should know about.  Like reading about current events.  Or, books Oprah raves about.  If Oprah is raving about a book I know I probably don't want to read that book.  Oprah and I do not have the same taste in books.

But at a book club meeting with women I love and respect they all unanimously voiced their love of The Kite Runner and one mentioned it was a great audiobook listen because then you weren't stumbling on the unfamiliar words and names.  I like to listen to books when read by the authors also, and this one was.  I was also made more curious after I discovered that Khaled Hosseini grew up in my hometown after moving to the States and even graduated from the other high school in our district.  So I set aside my prejudices about socially conscious books and checked out the audiobook from the library to listen to while I crocheted.

I did not love it.

I don't even understand why people like this book.  The main character, Amir is one of the most irredeemable, disgusting protagonists I've ever had the displeasure of reading about.  I was literally disgusted with him.  It made my stomach roll and at times I would exclaim in frustration because I just wanted him to shut up.  Are we supposed to learn to like him?  Have sympathy for him?  What is the point of creating a character so far removed from human decency?  I kept waiting for the moment when he would step up and atone for his past behaviors, but that didn't happen!  AND EVERYONE KEPT FORGIVING HIM!  He was treated as 'poor Amir' as if these things had happened TO him, when in fact he was the catalyst for ruining the lives of so many people who loved him.  And even in what should have been his great moment of redemption he once again proves to be a coward and useless.  When he should be a protector, he instead terrifies and then kneels idly while screaming instead of attempting to get help.  Waste.

The book dragged on for me with repetitive moments like when Assef is telling Sohrab to put down the slingshot.  It went like this:
"Put it down."  "No."  "Put it down."  "No."  "Put it down!"  "No."  "Put it down!"  "No!"  "Put it down!"  "No!"  "Put it down!"  "No!"
I almost went crazy in that moment.

Then there were the times when he would say something like:
"I have something important to tell you.  It will change your life.  It may be too late."  "What is it?!"  "Well, it may be too late."  "What do you mean?"  "I will tell you, but it may be too late.  Would you like a cigarette?"  "No, thank you."  "Let me ask you first, why do you want to know?"  "It's personal."  "But why do you want to know?"  "I have my reasons."  "But why?"  "It's personal."
Wasn't it painful reading that right now?  That's how I felt.  You may think I'm exaggerating, but I'm really not.

I was not surprised by anything.  Amir's actions and the repercussions of these actions were so obvious it was nearly unbearable.  Ugh.

But all was not terrible.  I loved reading about the Kabul in the 70's.  I loved getting that glimpse of  Afghan culture and traditions.  I enjoyed when Amir and Baba moved to the States and settled in the Bay Area reading about places I had been, like Lake Elizabeth and the Berryessa Flea Market, staples of my childhood.  I could clearly picture the stalls at the flea market and imagined Amir and his father maybe passing by my childhood home on their way back to Fremont.  I did love some of the characters, Hassan and Ali, of course, Baba, Soraya and her mother....but in the end it wasn't enough.

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