I was pretty reluctant to pick up Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner. I mean, a book so popular that all of page 3 is reading it... c'mon. But curiosity got the better of me (that, and the 60 bucks pirated edition at churchgate) and I ended up reading it. Lost it halfway through, bought another one and finished it. And what can I say, its been a while since I read something so beautifully tragic.
The Kite Runner is about two boys - Amir and Hassan - growing up in pre-Soviet Afghanistan. Hassan is the servant who's totally devoted to Amir and the best kite runner in all of Kabul. Their rather rosy childhood is interrupted when a shocking incident changes their relationship forever. The Soviet invasion and the rise of the Taliban further alienate the now expatriate Amir. However, the path to salvation lies in Kabul and Amir must seek his in the land of his ancestors.
There are few books that draw the reader so well into their emotional stream, and The Kite Runner is one of them. Right from the beginning, there is this sense of gloom, a dread that something horrible will happen to tear the young protagonists apart. A feeling of guilt runs through the narrative like a little brook that is out of sight, but whose gentle sound your ears cannot ignore. The only thing that mars the gentle subtlety of emotions of the book is the ending (or rather, the last few chapters) - its too dramatic in comparison, rather like a Hindi movie climax.
Apart from the story of personal loss and redemption, the book also paints a vivid picture of Afghanistan before it became the ravaged nation that it is now. When Amir finally returns to Kabul, one can sense the author's sense of outrage at the rape of a beloved land. And sadness at the loss of so much culture and heritage. In all, a good read. Reading Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns next.