Monday, August 3, 2009

"The Kite Runner" review

The Kite Runner, by first-time author Khaled Hosseini, was instantly lauded with praise and awards. It was the San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year, a #1 New York Times Bestseller, and received reviews from greats such as Isable Allende, calling it a classic. In 2007, Hosseini's second novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns, became a bestseller. In 2008, the novel became a major motion picture from Dreamworks. It has essentially made the author one of "the greats" without any real scrutiny. I'll try to bring some of that here.

You want a synopsis? Here's your stinkin' synopsis! Amir grew up in Afghanistan decades before it was launched into the public eye with the attacks in the World Trade Center on September 11. He and his father, Baba, had two Hazara servants, Ali and his son, Hassan, whom they regarded as friends. Amir and Hassan grew up together, enjoying life in the way that only little boys can. But one day, Amir displays cowardice when his friend is in danger, and it starts a chain of events that create a void between him and Hassan that would never again be repaired.

Now, in 2001, Amir, who is now in America with a beautiful wife, gets a phone call from an old friend of his father's. It tells him he can "make good" again, and Amir knows exactly what he means: redemption from his past with Hassan. But first, he must find Hassan's son and rescue him from the most terrible kind of imprisonment...

The Kite Runner is a very well-written book. Hosseini has great talents as a writer, much like his fictional protagonist. He makes the story of Amir seem real, as if somewhere in 2001, deep in the heart of Kabul, a man was truly searching for a way to "make good". He also picked the perfect time to write his novel, with the world's eye focused on Afghanistan when it was published. And Hosseini's lyrical and flowing prose makes for easy, but not insubstantial, reading.

However, there are two main problems, and sadly, both of them had to do with the always-crucial ending. First of all, the true climax of the book takes place long before the end of the book, and the denoument is, overall, rather depressing. Secondly, there is a scene, one of the last, that is totally unnecessary, and appears to have been added on after Hosseini decided he didn't really want a happy ending. It is almost as if a pretentious writing teacher of his read the book and said, "No no no, Khaled. You don't want to do that. It doesn't jar the reader enough." What Hosseini didn't realize was that a happy ending would have been far more surprising with the tone of the book, but the payoff for the reader would have been immense. But overall, these are small complaints. My recommendation: go ahead and buy The Kite Runner, but be prepared for a letdown at the end.

My rating: 9/10. It would have been 10, but the ending left a bad taste in my mouth.

Coming Soon: Founding Brothers and...? You decide!

1 comment:

Laughing Stars said...

I really like your honest review ... I really enjoyed this book, though, oddly enough, I don't remember the ending clearly.