Tuesday, January 29, 2008

BOOKS: The Kite Runner

The last many days of commuting to work have been emotional, sweeping, and at times tearful, as I have been listening to Khaled Hosseini read his novel The Kite Runner. What a beautiful tale of friendship, cowardice and honor, profound regrets and ultimate atonement. The story is driven by its fascinating characters, centered around the narrator, starting from his boyhood as he struggles to win his larger-than-life father's approval and affection, while navigating a complicated relationship with his best friend who is also his servant and from an "inferior" ethnic group. The plot follows an arc from an idyllic Afghanistan under the king, through a coup, Soviet invasion, an Afghan community in exile in the San Francisco Bay area, and a harrowing return to Afghanistan under the Taliban to confront the past. Hosseini's story is embedded in rich descriptions of the exotic Afghan countryside and culture (it helps hearing the author read his own work, pronouncing all the Pashto and Farsi words effortlessly), and had me wanting to visit Afghanistan (through a time machine, anyway). He deploys some beautiful imagery, describing coming to America as wading into a great river whose vast waters cover up regrets from the past, or the end of grief not in a revelatory moment but as packing up its bags and quietly slipping out. But most of all he had me thoroughly engrossed in this tale of fatal turning point moments, how they can shape a life and have repercussions across generations. As with Sheherezade's tales, each new episode in the life of these rich characters had me eager to hear the next, and it was bittersweet to have it come to an end.

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