By Lee L. Peoples
The two books below helped me put a face to a country I had only envisioned politically and, of course, negatively. However, reading Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns has enabled me to humanize this country. In the midst of all the turmoil in Afghanistan, there is still living…and loving…just as in any other country. Here are human beings whose lives are turned upside down. It is heartbreaking to read about these people’s lives torn asunder by one war after another, first the Russian invasion and finally the Taliban takeover. The author writes about his native country with love and regret – a country he fled for the U. S. amidst all the turmoil. I suggest that before you see the movie,The Kite Runner - which is due out soon – you read the book. Then, by all means read A Thousand Splendid Suns. I guarantee you will not be disappointed.
The Kite Runner
Now a major motion picture, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini is the very touching story of jealousy, love, betrayal, and redemption, among many other themes. The novel, set first in Kabul, Afghanistan, where Amir, the main character, was born and raised, moves to Pakistan, where the father and son flee after their country is overrun by the Russians and then other warring factions. Finally, they flee to America, where Northern California becomes home for them.
Amir’s mother dies while giving birth to him, and to Amir it seems that his father, Baba, loves his servant Ali’s son, Hassan, more than he loves him. In spite of this, the two boys grow up like brothers, best friends. One of their favorite activities during the winter is kite flying, which culminates in a kite fighting tournament requiring two people, the actual kite flyer/fighter, Amir, and an assistant who is also the kite runner, Hassan, who expertly runs in the direction of the falling kite to claim it as their own.
Khaled Hosseini’s first novel is fast-moving, suspenseful, and expertly written. The reader, having experienced emotional turmoil after emotional turmoil in this war-torn country, where class differences abound, is pleasantly surprised at the ending, where after so many years have passed, the secret of their lives, their friendship is revealed. It is only then that Amir, the main character, is able to forgive himself for the wrongs perpetrated upon Hassan because of his jealousy. This New York Times bestseller is a must read!
A Thousand Splendid Suns
One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs,
The two lines above are from a poem about Kabul, Afghanistan, in which the poet expresses his love for his homeland; and it is from this poem that Khaled Hosseini has taken the title of his latest number one bestseller, A Thousand Splendid Suns.
In spite of having fled his country, the author’s love of his country is clearly evident in both of his books. In this book in particular, his story of two women not only exhibits his love for his country but also his respect for women and their rights. Mariam and Leila, both forced into marriage to a much older man, first meet as rivals in a polygamous marriage but become the closest of friends and each other’s protector from their abusive husband.
When it becomes possible, the surviving protagonists flee to Pakistan, where they seek refuge from the horrors of war, but in the end they return to their country to help rebuild it after the Taliban are ousted. In his characters the reader gets the feel that Hosseini is expressing a wish that he in real life himself cannot fulfill.