Many of my friends have read this book and loved it. Finally, after putting off reading it by the prospect of being forced to read about the sexual assault of a child, I finally read it. I do think that public discussion and focus on this part of the story (whilst an extremely serious subject and does deserve much discussion in its own right), is detrimental to what the whole book is really about. In The Kite Runner we are taken through the life of Amir from when he was a very small child until he reaches middle age. Amir is born and grows up in Afghanistan during a time of peace followed by turbulence and transition; he is not living there for the rise of the power of the Taliban. Amir and his father are comfortable middle class Afghanis who live a very happy life, with their servant and his son Hassan. Amir and Hassan have a deep friendship and I guessed the special relationship early in the book, which I will not diviluge here.
I found Amir’s character reflected a certain selfishness and meanness that made him almost unlikeable, and yet I wanted him to succeed and prevail through all the hardships. Not only is he extremely hard on himself around the events that saw him lose his relationship with Hassan, but as a child he is without the compassionate guidance and solace of an adult. His father is lauded as a wonderful person by all those around him and yet his son Amir is forever trying to win his approval and acceptance. These two relationships of Amir’s in the book are well formed and I found myself wanting to help him resolve his internal conflicts; gosh he just needed someone with an open ear who he could talk to.
The book takes Amir from Afghanistan to America through to his return to Afghanistan and Pakistan. He meets so many people along the way who generously give of themselves and I was struck by how those with so little material goods in their world are most often the most generous. It gave me pause to consider what sort of person I would be in the same situation; I hope I never need to find out. Considering the recent floods in Queensland it is easy to see demonstrated the wonderful generosity of the Australian people. But it doesn’t end there, we have examples of considerably generously help from around the globe. Perhaps one of the most telling examples of how Australian people tick was in something I recently read. In Queensland the roads were blocked to the areas that were flood affected by the sheer numbers of people wanting to get there to help and this was contrasted with the statement that no roads were blocked by helpers when Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. I think that this illustrates that the spirit of Australians, which has long been celebrated, is still alive and well.
Amir’s journey through this book I think is one of redemption and forgiveness. In the end does he redeem himself in the eyes of his father, or does he forgive himself for being a scared 11 year old boy trapped in a frightening situation. I think it was a bit of both and I enjoyed how the story and relationships unfolded throughout. I feel that I was also given insight into the social constructs of Afghanistan culture, fascinating and we would all be the richer for knowing more of how other cultures are constructed and behave. In the end the book is about several different cultures and how much the world is changing today and that no one culture is an island, that we are all mobile and relating to each other in ways our parents generation could never have conceived of. Some big lessons for the world…