Torch Reads

On the cusp of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, a young boy’s inner world begins its descent into turmoil.

His mind mirrors that of the broken country around him as he and his father flee to America, a land they’ve only seen in films. They leave behind all that they hold dear-but for young Amir, the forced pilgrimage is symbolic of his leaving behind the guilt and shame of a terrible betrayal.

The stunning prose of Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner conducts the story of a friendship between Amir, the son of a wealthy Afghan noble , and Hassan, the son of his father’s servant. Class and ethnic divisions make their friendship quite complex, but nonetheless, Amir finds a sincere companion in Hassan.

Hosseini provides us with a wonderful picture of Afghanistan before its eventual politically-induced deterioration. We see Amir and Hassan spending their childhood racing through bustling markets, roaming picturesque hillsides, and most notably, engaging in the country’s great past-time, kite racing.

Hassan’s great loyalty to Amir costs him dearly. In one moment of great need, Amir fails to act to save his friend from an unthinkable act of brutality. (The great detail of that act will not be revealed here, to avoid a spoiler). In that one instant, he forfeits a great friendship, for he can no longer face Hassan or banish the shame from his mind.

America offers a chance for Amir and his father to start over and leave the pain of their past days in Kabul. For Amir, it is a new beginning, but for his father, Baba, America is an alien territory. In America, Amir grows into a man, while his father, ages and laments for the old country. Amir finds love and fulfills his dream of becoming a writer and Baba dies with a terrible secret.

Baba’s secret transforms itself into Amir’s redemption. Amir finds himself back in his homeland in search of “a way to be good again.” Hassan is gone but he has left behind a son that has been swallowed up by the harsh realities of modern-day Afghanistan life. Saving Hassan’s son, Sohrab, from a life of servitude and violence acts as the way in which Amir can absolve himself from his gross betrayal of Hassan all those years ago.

Amir’s ensuing adventure through Afghanistan is gut-wrenching as Hosseini veers into action-adventure territory. He gives the story that was highly emotional, up until now, some physical drama.

The preceding action is so intense that it is sure to keep you glued to the book and possibly even force you to throw it down. It may also cause you to question whether the whole exploit is a bit far-fetched.
The Kite Runner is an extraordinary novel. Its portrayal of a life and a people that I’ve never known is brilliant and beautiful. Hosseini’s Amir braves ruthless territory to regain the goodness within him and he is forever changed. Like Amir, one cannot experience this story and not be changed.