Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Book Review

Has anyone read The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini? Bob got it for Christmas from my sister. He read it, then I read it. I am inspired to write a blog review of this book.

It's the first book by Hosseini. Hmm, I thought when Bob first got it, probably one of those first books where the writer comes through as self-conscious and awkward. I'm not interested.

Theme of book: father/son issues. Hmm, not exactly pertinent to a woman. Not interested.

Location of book: Afghanistan. Hmmm, not exactly a country which appeals to me. Not interested.

Bob read it first. Said very little. Just read and read. Couldn't put it down. Wouldn't come to dinner on time or answer me when I talked to him. It was a case of show don't tell, par excellence. I could tell the book was something. But what? I had to find out.

So I began to read. Chapter 1 starts with:

I became what I am today at the age of twelve, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975. I remember the precise moment, crouching behind a crumbling mud wall, peeking into the alley near the frozen creek. That was a long time ago, but it's wrong what they say about the past, I've learned, about how you can bury it. Because the past claws its way out. Looking back now, I realize I have been peeking into that deserted alley for the last twenty-six years.

Despite the theme, location etc., I was hooked. The book is riveting. It is powerful, relentless, moving, haunting, and shattering. The author is far from self-conscious about his writing. It flows effortlessly and carries the reader through a historical look at Afghanistan at the end of the monarchy, and through the struggle of a son for his father's approval, never achieved amidst the lies that kept them apart.

It is about friendship, betrayal, regret, cowardice, bravery and love. Hard to beat that combination.

One more excerpt:

The rest of that ride is scattered bits and pieces of memory that come and go, most of it sounds and smells: MIGs roaring past overhead; staccatos of gunfire; a donkey braying nearby; the jingling of bells and mewling of sheep; gravel crushed under the truck's tires; a baby wailing in the dark; the stench of gasoline, vomit and shit.

What I remember next is the blinding light of the early morning as I climbed out of the fuel tank. I remember turning my face up to the sky, squinting, breathing like the world was running out of air. I lay on the side of the dirt road next to a rocky trench, looked up to the gray morning sky, thankful for air, thankful for light, thankful to be alive.

"We're in Pakistan, Amir," Baba said.

I rolled onto my chest, still lying on the cool dirt, and saw our suitcases on either side of Baba's feet... They made me sad for Baba. Everything he'd built, planned, fought for, fretted over, dreamed of, this was the summation of his life: one disappointing son and two suitcases.

I invite anyone who has read this book to comment, and I recommend it to those who have not. A superb novel, so says the Globe and Mail, and so says

Lulu

6 comments:

w.t. said...

I think you told me about it before? Your promotional talk is catchy. I will see if I can get it from the Library, as soon as I have finished New Found Land.

bb said...

so many books to read so little time...sighs

Xena said...

Well, I haven't read the book, although the portions you've picked to share are riveting. My comment is on something else, Lulu. What a wonderful gift from your sister! She obviously listened enough to you and Bob to give Bob something he would like, something that would be meaningful for him, a father and son story of the search for understanding.

I read an article once which put a new spin on the Jesus story for me, a story of son seeking the approval of his father. It didn't imply that all of Jesus' actions were based on a need for approval, but touched on the moment when the dove appears, and God says (I'm paraphrasing), "This is my son, of whom I am well pleased". Or something like that-

Anyway, that amazed me, that single moment. As a woman, I can identify with the Gospel's women's stories about Jesus - but that spin on that particular Jesus story showed me something new... a new look (for me) at the father / son relationship.

Lulu said...

Yes it was a wonderful gift from a sister who is tuning in to Bob's issues. She even asked me first if I thought he would like a book with that theme. Another book was suggested too, I forget which. I knew right away the father/son theme was the one. Didn't expect to like it so much myself!

bb said...

Kite flying was one of the few leisure activities afghans were allowed under the Taliban. So I figure that is one significant feature of the title.

There few other activities that were allowed other than praying and strict devotion.

Kites flying was a big sport..Why? I have no idea but there must be a reason that it was not banned also.

bb said...

I might have been wrong…

The Taliban also tried to ban Kite flying...

I read a readers guide, some excerpts and reviews of the Kite Runner.

“Life goes on, unmindful of beginning, end...crisis or catharsis, moving forward like a slow, dusty caravan of kochis [nomads]."

I have read a number of books on Afghanistan. The geography, history and culture fascinate me.

It was one of the cradles of civilization. Some where between a thousand and two thousand years ago at a Kabul university students were surrounded by Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and so on. People were free to learn and pick and choose.