When I read books that I really enjoy, the first thing I do is check out other titles by the same author. With Khaled Hosseini, it seemed obvious for me to read the book that began his writing career. Like A Thousand Splendid Suns, this book focuses on familial relationships. Instead of a mother-daughter relationship, however, The Kite Runner explores father-son relationships. Born and raised in a wealthy district of Kabul, Amir struggles to gain his father’s affections. During his free time, he plays with his closest friend, Hassan, the son of his father’s servant, Ali. They spend the days climbing a pomegranate tree, competing in the winter kite fighting contest, and Amir reads to his illiterate friend; at first just works by famous Persian authors and poets, but eventually his own stories, too. As the boys grow up, Amir occasionally tests Hassan’s unwavering loyalty, but when the time comes, Amir cannot stand up for his friend. Even worse, Amir’s guilt gets so bad that he concocts a plan to get rid of Hassan and Ali so that he doesn’t have to face his friend anymore.
Five years after Hassan and Ali’s departure, the Soviet Union interferes in Afghanistan, causing Amir and his father to flee, first to Pakistan and then to the US. They settle in Fremont, California and after Amir graduates high school, he attends San Jose State University to become a writer. In California, he meets a young woman from another refugee family and the two fall in love and eventually marry. After fifteen years of marriage, and after his father has passed away from cancer, Amir receives a phone call from his father’s old business partner, Rahim Khan, that offers a chance for Amir to be “good again”. Amir travels to Pakistan to meet up with his father’s friend and learns that Ali and Hassan have both been killed, but that Hassan had been married and had a son who was sent to live in an orphanage. Amir travels back to Kabul for the first time in years, and discovers the horrors that the Taliban has inflicted on his home country. To much risk and even physical harm, Amir eventually tracks down and rescues Hassan’s son Sohrab. Amir and his wife happily adopt Sohrab, but after all the boy’s experienced, Amir knows it will take time for the ten year old to trust him and his wife.
I will admit that I enjoyed A Thousand Splendid Suns more than this book. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy The Kite Runner, I absolutely did. That this was Hosseini’s debut novel is absolutely incredible. Still, I enjoyed Mariam and Laila’s story more, as there is a definite evolution in Hosseini’s writing from his debut to his second book. I do absolutely highly recommend The Kite Runner.