by Khaled Hosseini
Lately, on-the-nose dialogue and overt writing in fiction has really been grating on me in my reading. This isn’t to say that either of these related issues are the worst offenders in literature, but they’re usually enough to hurt the story, enough to change what could have been great into just something that’s good. With this in mind, it was probably a poor time for me to pick up The Kite Runner, as there’s a lot to love in the story, but this sort of explicit writing keeps dragging it down. It’s interesting to me, too, because this “problem” seems to be present in a great deal of popular, well-received literature, which could mean that it’s something most people enjoy, don’t worry too much about, or don’t even notice. So, you know, even though this really framed my opinion of the book, take it for what it likely is: unimportant.
The Kite Runner is a story that’s effectively divided into three parts. In the first, our narrator, Amir, recounts growing up in Afghanistan in the ’60s and ’70s, exploring his relationship with his father, Baba, and his close “friend” and servant, Hassan. In the second, Amir relives his new life after his father and he flee to America after the Soviet invasion of his home country. And, in the third, he returns to Afghanistan to save an orphan boy and to try and atone for mistakes from his past.
Where Hosseini succeeds in The Kite Runner is largely through his characters. By setting good people with strong convictions––Baba and Hassan––next to our narrator, he takes what would have already been a cowardly and selfish character and really hits home either how bad it was or how hard Amir is on himself when he remembers those times. This not only gives ample opportunity for a satisfying character arc, but the author also uses Amir to explore the uncomfortable, and largely unmentioned, aspects of Afghan society from the time: racism, class structure, and growing religious extremism.
Of course, The Kite Runner isn’t without faults. Aside from the aforementioned explicit writing, the book kind of lags in the middle, during the second part. It came across as a portrayal of life going on despite a lack of resolution to things that bothered the narrator, how easy it is to move on and sweep your feelings under the rug, but I found it a bit hard to care while Amir navigated the unforgiving Afghan social customs on his quest for love. Even with the negatives in mind, however, Hosseini still explores difficult concepts very maturely, triggering strong emotions in the process. And keep in mind that this was a debut. With experience, I’m sure that good writing like this can evolve into great writing, meaning I have high hopes for his couple of books that followed this one.