I read this book MONTHS ago, but I have to turn in a project for school about it (I finished reading it super early, and then was lazy and didn’t right the report until the day before it was due). Basically this isn’t going to be a normal review (sorry for how long it is), but maybe it will help someone else who read this book as well.
*SPOILER ALERT* This review contains spoilers to the story.
Amir grew up in a privileged household in Kabul, Afghanistan with his wealthy father, Baba, and their two servants Hassan and Hassan’s father Ali. Hassan, a Hazara, is Amir’s best friend who would do anything for Amir, but many times Amir mistreats him since he is of a different social strata.
When the president of Afghanistan is overthrown and the Soviet’s come into Kabul, everything changes. Tensions begin to run on high, and there is fear of friends turning each other in. “The rafiqs, the comrades, were everywhere and they’d split Kabul into two groups: those who eavesdropped and those who didn’t.” (112) One day the town bullies: Assef, Walli, and Kamal try to fight Amir since he is friends with a Hazara (Hassan), but Hassan protects Amir (as always) and shoots Assef with his sling shot.
Every year a kite flying tournament occurs. All the boys in Kabul and other Afghan towns put tar and glass on their strings in order to battle with the kites. The kites fight in the air until one of the kites gets cut and falls to the ground. Kite runners will then chase down the kite head because it is considered an honor to have one (especially if it was the kite from the championship). Amir wins the tournament, and Hassan (a very fast kite runner) decides to run it for him. Hassan gets the kite, but when Amir finds him, he is cornered in an alley with Assef, Wali, and Kamal. Assef rapes Hassan since he won’t give him the kite, and Amir doesn’t do anything and later pretends like he never saw it.
Amir is overcome with guilt, and he and Hassan drift apart. Soon Amir decides that they can’t both stick around because he can’t even stand to see him anymore, so he plants money and a watch under Hassan’s mattress and says he stole it. When questioned about it by Baba, Hassan agrees in order to save Amir one more time, and he and Ali leave Kabul.
Amir and Baba leave Afghanistan a few years later due to the severity of the war, and end up going to California. Baba meets his old friend General Taheri, and Amir begins to like the general’s daughter Soraya, but the general notices and tells him he must court or get married properly (Afghan style). Baba is diagnosed with cancer, and so they know they don’t have much time. Amir and Soraya get married quickly because of Baba’s impending death, and he dies a month after.
Rahim Kahn, an old family friend of Baba who Amir grew up with, calls Amir to tell him he wants Amir to come visit him in Pakistan since he is sick. When he gets there, Rahim Kahn tells him how much worse Kabul has become. After the Soviets were forced out, the Taliban began to violently rule. Then, he tells Amir about how after Amir and Baba left, he watched their house and asked Hassan and Hassan’s family to come and live with him since he was lonely. Hassan had a wife named Farzana and a little boy named Sohrab. A few years after they came to live with him, Rahim Kahn had to go to Pakistan since he was ill. While he was gone, the Taliban went to the house and killed Hassan and his wife in front of Sohrab, and sent Sohrab to an orphanage.
Rahim Kahn wanted Amir to go to the orphanage in Kabul and bring Sohrab back to Pakistan so he could live with a loving family. He also tells Amir that Baba was Hassan’s father. Once Amir gets to the orphanage in Kabul, the orphanage director says that a Taliban official took Sohrab a month earlier, but if he wanted to find the man he would need to go to the baseball game later that day. Amir is furious about how they were giving children away to the officials, but he goes to the game to find him. At the game the Taliban official stones two people to death. Amir meets with this man who turns out to be Assef, and asks them to bring in Sohrab. It is clear that the boy has been through a lot and has been abused. Assef wants to settle things with Amir from the times in their childhood when he felt humiliated and begins to beat him up with brass knuckles. Sohrab shoots Assef in the eye with a slingshot and Sohrab and Amir escape.
When they get back to Pakistan, Amir finds out there was never a couple to adopt Sohrab, and asks Sohrab if he would come back to America to live with him. After some time, Sohrab accepts. They find out through adoption officials that it will be next to impossible to adopt Sohrab since they can’t prove his parents are dead, and when Amir tells Sohrab that he may have to go back to an orphanage, Sohrab freaks out. Soraya and Amir figure out a way they could get him to the U.S., but before they are able to tell him, Sohrab tries to kill himself. He survives, but stops talking completely. They go back to California, and one day they find other Afghan’s flying kites in a park. Amir and Sohrab fly one and win using one of Hassan’s tricks, and Sohrab smiles. Amir runs the kite for him.
Separate Classes and Religion
The social classes that separate Amir and Hassan say a lot about the culture and hierarchy. Amir was born into wealth with a powerful father, was Pashtun, and Sunni. Hassan was born as a servant with a crippled father, is a Hazara (the minority), and is Shi’a. “Never mind any of those things. Because history isn’t easy to overcome. Neither is religion. In the end, I was Pashtun and he was a Hazara, I was Sunni and he was Shi’a, and nothing was ever going to change that. Nothing.” (25) Even though Hassan would do anything for Amir as his friend, Amir often mocks and mistreats Hassan because he feels like he has to since Hassan is a Hazara (and that is the common thing to do), and because he is always vying for the attention of his father, Baba.
Amir is always jealous of any affection Baba shows towards Hassan, and he attacks Hassan (verbally or by “testing his loyalty to him”) because of his jealously. Amir has a need to please his father and it is this desire that causes Amir to act the way he does as a child, and stand by while terrible things are done to his best friend, Hassan. Baba says to Rahim Kahn about Amir, “A boy who won’t stand up for himself becomes a man who can’t stand up to anything.” (22) Amir is always looking for ways to please his father, “But this was my one chance to become someone who was looked at, not seen, listened to, not heard.” (65), but in doing this he only harms the people around him (Hassan), and displeases his father.
Living Up to the Expectations of Others
Also, throughout the story Baba shows how he wishes Amir could be more like Hassan, and Rahim Khan comments that a person can’t force and create someone else exactly how they would like them to be. “Children aren’t coloring books. You don’t get to fill them in with your favorite colors.” (21) People are different, and probably won’t live up to certain expectations their parents might put on them.
On the other end of the spectrum, Hassan would do anything for Amir even though Amir is so awful to him. He is always doing anything Amir asks of him, no matter how cruel, and always protects him. Hassan represents a purity and innocence and honesty that was abused by his “best friend” and brother Amir. To anything Amir ever asked of Hassan, Hassan would say, “For you a thousand times over!” (67) For Hassan, it never mattered who he was with, but for Amir, he was awful when he was around the other kids of Kabul, but when no one else was looking he could be a good friend. They had been raised together since they were born, and were always doing things together so they had a very strong connection. “Not a word passes between us, not because we have nothing to say, but because we don’t have to say anything–that’s how it is between people who are each other’s first memories, people who have fed from the same breast.” (122)
What people Deserve, Forgiveness, and Guilt
Many times good people have to go through rotten circumstances, and rotten people are only rewarded. The idea of what people deserve is a theme throughout The Kite Runner.
Both Amir and Baba are plagued with guilt throughout the course of the story, and it plays a big part in who they are. Amir is guilty because he didn’t stand up for his best friend when Hassan had protected him so many times, and then he hurt him even more and sent him away. Baba is guilty because he was the illegitimate father of Hassan, but couldn’t ever tell him. “He loved you both, but he could not love Hassan the way he longed to, openly, and as a father. So he took it out on you instead–Amir, the socially legitimate half, the half that represented the riches he had inherited and the sin-with-impunity privileges that came with them. When he saw you, he saw himself. And his guilt.” (301)
One action or misdeed can ruin everything. “It may be unfair, but what happens in a few days, sometimes even a single day, can change the course of a whole lifetime, Amir.” (142) After that, it is important to try to fix things, and both Baba and Amir struggled with forgiveness because they couldn’t even forgive themselves.
I wouldn’t say that I necessarily enjoyed The Kite Runner because it is so sad, filled with loss, and at times very heavy, but I learned a lot and it was a great representation of modern Afghan culture and life. I would give this book 3.5/5 stars (which isn’t completely fair because I am rating it so long after I read it, but from what I can remember…) It is one of the better books I have had to read for school, but like I said it is very sad and Amir got on my nerves to no end because even though his character was realistic, he was an awful friend, and wallowed in his guilt for most of the book, but didn’t want to do anything about it.
If you would like to know more about it without the full synopsis (school report stuff), here is the link to goodreads.
Let’s chat: Thoughts? Have you read it? What did you think?