Saturday, August 25, 2007

Book Blogging - The Kite Runner

True confession here - when I read a book, I tend to scan through the long paragraphs, gazing through looking for the meat of the matter, avoiding the periphery of descriptions. Further confession -- I read alot of the Harry Potter books this way - not word for word, just looking for the point. But not the Kite Runner! I had to read every word. I was engrossed. I couldn't let a thought, a sentence, a paragraph pass without ingesting it.

I don't know how many times, as I was reading, I turned to the front to make sure this was not the memoirs of Khaled Hossieni. It is fiction, the author's first novel. But I was convinced it was his life.

Amir was a difficult character to admire. There were so many examples in his life of men who were strong, admirable, heroic. Time and again Amir would choose the easy road and let Hassan pick up the pieces and literally take the punches for him. This was odd to me because Amir was so honest about his cowardice. He knew himself so well and didn't shy from acknowledging that he was yellow and somehow, prophetically knew this would haunt him all his life.

At the same time that Amir's lack of backbone frustrated me, I felt he was the more realistic of characters. I would like to think all men would choose to stand up against a drunken Soviet soldier to defend a married woman and protect her. But I don't know, in reality, if most would. Perhaps Amir is more like most men and Baba and Hassan are the exceptions.

There is so much culturally I will never understand about Hassan and Amir's relationship-best friends but the mark on Hassan, being Hazara, ever taints that relationship. So much is revealed in the end - when Amir returns to see Rahim - the truth about their familial relationship. I wonder if they had known the truth as youngsters how their interaction would have changed? Culturally would it have? Were they so bound by the unspoken laws around them that the secret didn't matter?

I admired Baba. Although I think if I knew him personally, in real-life, I wouldn't not of spoken highly of him but rather spoken about him behind his back. He reminded me a lot of my father-the assuredness of opinion, the black and whiteness of life, the air of disappointment, the cynicism and the audacity to do the right thing regardless of what others thought. Even after Rahim reveals the truth behind Baba and Hassan, I loved him even more.

Okay, back to Harry Potter - how many (who have read HP and KR) thought of Draco Malfoy when Assef was in the picture?

There is so much to discuss here about Afghanistan, the Taliban, fundamentalist Islam, American culture, international adoption, forgiveness, reconciliation...I'll let you do that and tell me your opinions in the comment section. let's have a running dialogue today. Shall we?

To end with my favorite quotes:

pp.18-19 when Baba is explaining to Amir what sin is... "If there is a God out there, then I would hope he has more important things to attend to than my drinking scotch or eating pork."

There is only one sin. And that is theft...When you tell a lie, you steal some one's right to the truth p.225

A part of me was hoping someone would wake up and hear, so I wouldn't have to live with this lie anymore. But no one woke up and in the silence that followed, I understood the nature of my new curse: I was going to get away with it. p.86

"Hit me back! I spat. "Hit me back, goddamn you!" I wished he would. I wished he'd give me the punishment I craved, so maybe I'd finally sleep at night. Maybe then things could return to how they used to be between us. p. 92
I liked these two quotes because they show the intense need we have for reconciliation, repentance and penance.

The tender relationship between Amir and Baba during Baba's last days was very moving. I think Amir's respect and admiration grew expotentially during Baba's illness and after his death.
Listening to them [the mourners at Baba's funeral, paying their respects], I realized how much of who I was, what I was, had been defined by Baba and the marks he had left on people's lives. My whole life, I had been "Baba's son." Now he was gone. Baba couldn't show me the way anymore; I'd have to find it on my own. p.174
I could go on and on - Hassan's letter to Amir (p216), how the talib (teenagers) were treating their elders (p199), Rahim's account of life in Kabul after Baba and Amir left, rahim's letter (p300), Amir telling his wife everything (p 325), and finally Sohrab in the hospital after his suicide attempt ("What Sohrab?" He winced when he spoke again in that husky voice, barely above a whisper, "Tired of everything.")

Sohrab's story broke my heart and I know it's probably not a fictional story for many children. To go through so much in a brief time, during one's childhood, the most tender years. Years that should be spent in laughter and games and play and mischief. All of that robbed. Like Baba said, the only sin is theft. Certainly Sohrab was robbed of innocence.

To conclude: I am hoping that one of you has a book that you would love others to read and discuss. If so, leave that in the comments. If you would like to host the bookbloggingclub on your blog next month (on the 25th), leave that in the comments too! If you don't have a blog but have a book interest, leave that too!
Thanks for joining me, now join in the discussion....


Anonymous said...

I agree with you that this book was well written and that the characters were pretty realistic.

I wouldn't recommend it to anyone, though, because I'm sorry I read it. It left that one image seared into my brain--the steel ball in the eye socket--and that really ruined the whole thing for me.

Also, I know quite a bit about Afganistan, and it bothered me that the book had no isolated women-headed households in it. Now, statistically, that was one of the biggest problems under the Taliban--there were many households where women were the only adults, and under the Taliban they were not allowed to leave the house without male relatives to escort them. Some starved; some broke the rules, got caught, and were beaten to death; some managed to attach themselves to a neighboring household. Schools that taught girls how to read were shut down, and many of those teachers were killed. The book doesn't even really suggest awareness of these facts, and so it didn't seem to be realistic at all to me.

I Was Just Thinking.... said...

I agree there were images that stuck in your brain. The ball in the eye wasn't one of them for me. What stuck for me was what Amir was most ashamed.
I do remember women's predicament in Talib-led Afghanistan being mentioned. I thought the author touched on it, though lightly. But that wasn't the emphasis of his story. He was focusing on a child's life, lost both mother and father, in Talib-lead Afghanistan.
Thanks for your comments.

Juloyes said...

I need to read this! I do this on Sept. 25 on my blog? That means I need to pick a book...and get reading!

I Was Just Thinking.... said...

Juloyes - do you want to host on sept 25th? What book?

Suzanne Moody said...

I thought the book was fantastic. Could not put it down and I too had to remember it was a novel. Have just picked up Khaled Hosseini's 2nd book today...A Thousand Splendid Suns (no I don't think I want to host next month...don't have the way with words you do much G..... in me and I don't have a blog.
Back to The Kite Runner. I liked what Baba said about not telling the truth...'you steal from someone when you don't tell the truth'....that was certainly correct in what was stolen from Amir and Hassan.
Have just finished another book "In the Kingdom" by Carmen BinLaden. Very insightful and interesting.

I Was Just Thinking.... said...

Thanks Oma - I think you would do well to host. Don't sell yourself short. What is Housseini's second book about?

Courtney said...

hey barb,
I've written my thoughts at my site. I'm glad I re-read the book for this. Thanks.

Courtney said...

oh huh, guess i should leave my site

Courtney said...

i will add to my comments that I acutally liked Amir more than I did Baba. I know that Baba stood up for other people, but his overall inability to show love for Amir was what ruined him for me. Even thought Amir had no backbone, I like his ability to understand himself and his desire to be better than he was. I have little patience for people that are closed off and that's how I viewed Baba.

I Was Just Thinking.... said...

It would have been interesting to learn of Baba's background. I think he was closed off because he played to his culture. Amir's culture was in transition - Afghanistan/American/modern/etc
I still sympathize with Baba, regardless of his lack of ability to communicate love. Somehow that love did come throw in more subtle ways, I think. Amir knew it.
ALTHOUGH, his lie that he kept from Amir and Hassan for a lifetime, I don't know, I still feel for him. Maybe I'm so wrapped up in how much he reminded me of my dad that I only see him with those glasses. You know daughters and dads!