In his debut novel, Dr. Khaled Hosseini tells a tale that begins in his homeland, Afghanistan, and ends in his adopted country, the United States. Amir, son of a wealthy Pashtun merchant, narrates the story. Amir and his father, Baba, are attended by two Hazara servants, Ali and his hare-lipped son, Hassan. Amir and Hassan are friends, but Amir is troubled by a guilty conscience over multiple slights and sly insults aimed at Hassan. The burden of guilt intensifies over an incident at a kite-flying contest when Amir is twelve years old.

Kite flying in Afghanistan is an intricate affair involving glass-embedded string that contestants use to slice the strings of other kites. The winner is not only the one with the last kite flying, but also the one who catches the last cut kite--the kite runner. At the close of the contest, Amir witnesses the traumatization of his friend Hassan, the finest kite runner, at the hands of an evil youth, Assef. Too shamed to help Hassan, Amir is nearly swallowed by his cowardice: the rest of the story follows the consequences of his guilt.

Amir and Baba emigrate to the United States during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, but Amir, as a young adult, returns during the Taliban regime in order to redeem himself and help Hassan's son. The story is filled with plot twists and revelations of secrets and hidden relationships, which enable Amir to confront some of his shortcomings. The oppression, torture, and murder of Afghanis by the Taliban are graphically depicted.


This is a beautifully written tale. Relationships are complex: full of pride, longing, prejudice, regrets, love, and frailty. Childhood post-traumatic stress disorder, the loss of trust and innocence, and the consequences of cultural mores and taboos provide some of the themes in this finely textured novel. The tumultuous history of Afghanistan, including the ravages of oppression, both influences and reflects the nuanced characters: their flaws, hopes, and redemption.

Editor's note (4/16/09): Timothy Aubry discusses reader response to this novel, based on his analysis of hundreds of comments submitted to, especially with reference to readers' conceptions that the story reflects "universal" human qualities in the midst of a culture that is foreign to US readers ("Afghanistan Meets the Amazon: Reading The Kite Runner in America", Publications of the Modern Language Association of America, 124/1, Jan 2009, pp.25-43)



Place Published

New York



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