Sometimes it's better to not show up at all, then to be late. This isn't one of those times. I've seen this book on bookshelves for several years. I've seen it at Barnes & Noble, I've seen it at Target, and I've seen it at more airport bookstores than I care to mention. I've held it in my hands numerous times, read the blurb time and again, almost bought it on so many cross-country trips, but never did. I don't know why. Maybe the L-word on the cover's quoted review from the New York Times scared me off. Literature. We all have ideas of what Literature is and mine contain an upwardly pointed nose. I enjoy non-fiction books, mostly travel writing to be exact. And on the occasion that I do pick up a work of fiction, I like it to be funny like "Freddy and Fredericka" or, at the least, wholly unique like "Life of Pi". So, for over four years, I let "The Kite Runner" go unread. Until finally I noticed that the author, Khaled Hosseini, had another well-praised book on the market and that "The Kite Runner" was marked down. I was staring at a week of lonely nights in a tent at TransRockies so I figured it was time I finally read this book.
I'm so glad I did. Hosseini's writing is superb and if not for a little detective work of comparing in-story dates with his bio, I almost refused to believe his claim that the book was fiction and not autobiographical. Much of "The Kite Runner" takes place in Kabul, Afghanistan in the 1970's and tells the coming of age tale of Amir, a young boy in one of the exclusive neighborhoods in Kabul. It's about his friendship with the son of his family's servant and about how Amir betrays that friendship. As the years pass, the boy moves with his father to California to escape the Russian invasion. While in the US, Amir marries and starts a successful career as a novelist. All the while, back in Afghanistan, his former countrymen are living under the heel of the Taliban's oppressive regime. Without spoiling anything, I'll say that events transpire that bring Amir, now a grown man, back to Kabul in the year 2001. The Kabul he sees isn't one that he recognizes from his youth, but moreso the one we Americans know from CNN. The descriptions can be horrifying at times and, in many ways, despite the reviewer claims of Literature, this fictional tale makes for a great travel story.
"The Kite Runner" is a must-read for anyone who enjoys reading and isn't so ethnocentric that they can't appreciate a story about sompleace where the people act, dress, and talk differently than typical Westerners. It's also a quick read. At 370-plus pages, it's the perfect length, but the story is so gripping and written with such flow that you'll find yourself cruising through 40 to 60 pages with each sitting. Despite being utterly exhausted at TransRockies each night, I mnanaged to get through the first 250 pages in my tent that week. For me, that's a lot as I'm a very slow reader. Definitely pick it up, as it's certainly as good as the hype and praise.
And yes, you will learn all about kite running. And if you're like me, you'll think it's pretty damn cool.
Link to "The Kite Runner" at Barnes & Noble.