“The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini

KiteRunner

This was one of those books that has been on my list for a long time, and I finally got around to reading it. I remember something Salman Rushdie said when I heard him speak at UNCA: He said if you want to learn about Afghanistan, you read The Kite Runner and not the news. I definitely feel like I learned a lot about Afghan culture from this book.

So the problem I now face is what to write about without providing spoilers for those who have not yet read the book. It’s tough, because so much of the story’s beauty is in how everything plays out. I guess I will focus on some things that resonated with me on a personal level, as well as some interesting symbolism.

One of the more painful memories from my childhood was when a friend of mine, Mason, was getting bullied by a group of older kids. These kids had often bullied me, so I was just grateful that I was being spared. Thinking I might avoid future bullying, I laughed as my friend was attacked. Of course, this did not spare me from future abuse, and I was also wracked with guilt over the pain I saw in my friend’s eyes. Our friendship ended that day and I have long regretted my failure to stand by Mason. So when I read how Amir passively watched and did nothing while his friend Hassan was attacked, I had a reaction which was nothing short of visceral.

I opened my mouth, almost said something. Almost. The rest of my life might have turned out differently if I had. But I didn’t. I just watched. Paralyzed.

(p. 73)

Recently, I have been saddened by the images of Syrian refugees and the stories of their struggles. It is almost unfathomable for a white, privileged American to grasp how it must feel to pack what little you can into a suitcase and flee from your home. The closest experience I have had to that was having to evacuate my home when a hurricane was approaching, packing what I could into my car, and thoroughly expecting the rest of my belongings to be gone within 24 hours. As such, I was stirred by the section of the book where Amir and his father had to flee Afghanistan.

My eyes returned to our suitcases. They made me sad for Baba. After everything he’d built, planned, fought for, fretted over, dreamed of, this was the summation of his life: one disappointing son and two suitcases.

(p. 124)

The one symbol I would like to look at is the pomegranate, which appears throughout the book. “In Ancient Greek mythology, the pomegranate was known as the ‘fruit of the dead’, and believed to have sprung from the blood of Adonis.” In addition, pomegranates “were known in Ancient Israel as the fruits which the scouts brought to Moses to demonstrate the fertility of the ‘promised land’.” Finally, “some Jewish scholars believe the pomegranate was the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden.” (Source: Wikipedia)

In the book, there is a scene where Amir returns to a place from his childhood where a pomegranate tree once grew. The tree is now dead and fruitless, symbolizing the transition of Afghanistan from a rich fertile place to one of death and desolation. In addition, the dead tree also represents the loss of his friendship with Hassan, and the sin and guilt which Amir must bear.

Hassan had said in his letter that the pomegranate tree hadn’t borne fruit in years. Looking at the wilted, leafless tree, I doubted it ever would again. I stood under it, remembered all the times we’d climbed it, straddled its branches, our legs swinging, dappled sunlight flickering through the leaves and casting on our faces a mosaic of light and shadow. The tangy taste of pomegranate crept into my mouth.

(p. 264)

It’s taken me a long time, but I have finally been able to forgive myself for the mistakes I made as a kid. Kids make mistakes; it’s part of growing up. Like Amir in the book, I beat myself up for a long time over mistakes I made, but as I matured as a person, I learned to forgive myself and to become a better person as a result.

What you did was wrong, Amir jan, but do not forget that you were a boy when it happened. A troubled little boy. You were too hard on yourself then, and you still are—I saw it in your eyes in Peshawar. But I hope you will heed this: A man who has no conscience, no goodness, does not suffer. I hope your suffering comes to an end with this journey to Afghanistan.

(p. 301)

It’s impossible to read this book and not be affected by the experience. This book demonstrates the importance of literature. Stories matter. They force us to examine ourselves and help to advance humanity as a whole.

Thanks for stopping my, and keep reading great stuff.

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14 Comments

Filed under Literature

14 responses to ““The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini

  1. What a great post. I read this a long time ago but you’ve reminded me of what I loved about it.

    • Hi Cathy. I’m glad you liked the post, and it doesn’t surprise me that you also loved the book. It really is an amazing story. Hope you have a wonderful day, and thanks for taking the time to comment.

      Jeff

  2. I agree, a great post about this book, and about you. Thanks.

    • Thanks Jerry. BTW – would love to get together sometime soon for lunch. Email or text me and let me know some dates that are good for you. Mondays and Fridays are usually good for me to go out for lunch. Cheers!

  3. This is such a wonderful book! You’re right, it’s a great reminder that stories matter 🙂

    • Hi Anne. Thanks for your comment. I feel like I learn more from literature these days than I do from the biased and opinionated news media. Anyway, hope you have an amazing day! – Jeff

  4. Moving, Makes me want to read it. I read hIs other book–I hope I get the title right–When the Mountains Echoed, and it was powerful, and made me feel for his country.

    • Hi Amber. Thanks for the comment. Yeah, the title of his other book sounds familiar. Guess I will have to add that to my ever-exponentially expanding reading list 😉

      Cheers – Jeff

  5. I loved that book. About pomegranate, in Greek myth it is associated with Persephone, who after eating it was forced to remain in the underworld for 6 months during a year.
    Lovely review, thank you.

  6. Wow, Jeff, this is one of my favorite books, but I read it soon after it was published and have forgotten some. Now I want to read it again. You chose a very moving way to discuss the book. There are so many parallels in the things we read, aren’t there?

    • Hi Barb! Yeah, we share an interest in the same types of books, it seems. And music too. Reading a graphic novel right now, then planning to read Titus Andronicus, since the local theater group is performing it. Figure i should read it before i see it 😉

      Jeff

  7. Jeff, I just finished reading The Kite Runner, recommended by you and I cannot thank you enough for your subdued, thoughtful, non-spoiler review. What a book! Thanks for recommending it. I was there when Salmon Rushdie recommended it, but it was your post that pulled me into it.

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