“There is a way to be good again”; in his poignant tale of love, loyalty and forgiveness, Hosseini explores one man’s titanic struggle for redemption.
The book begins in 1970s Kabul, Afghanistan, and follows the life of Amir, a complex and deeply troubled young boy that strives in vain for his mighty father’s approval. Amir is in constant reverence of his Baba, and the dazzling wealth – including “gold-stitched tapestries” and a “crystal chandelier” – that he has managed to accumulate. His father is a well-liked, deeply respected member of the community, yet struggles identifying with his effeminate, cowardly son. When the bullies of the neighbourhood and their ringleader Assef come hunting, it is Hassan, Amir’s Hazara servant, that becomes the protector.
Simple, loyal and tragically trusting, Hassan is the moral compass to Amir’s conflicting motives. The two share an irreplaceable brotherhood, inseparable from birth, though Amir relinquishes Hassan’s friendship in place of remaining his social superior. He is a Pashtun, educated and privileged, far above Hassan in society; however, he is far below him in courage and genuine nature.
In order to gain the approval of his demanding and distant Baba, Amir endeavours to win the district’s kite fighting tournament, the most highly regarded event of the year; if he wins this, perhaps Baba will finally acknowledge his worth. With Hassan by his side, Amir battles for victory in the competition (kite fighting is a formidable sport in Afghan culture), Hosseini conveying perfectly the young boy’s desperate tension. Yet it is the events that immediately follow the tournament – tragedy and shameful betrayal- that destroys both boys’ lives as they know it.
Some years later, following the Russian invasion and its subsequent terrifying violence, Amir and Baba are forced to flee their life in Afghanistan, the perilous journey echoing the danger Afghan people are now in. However, they are the lucky ones (or so it seems) as they reach America: the golden land of opportunity, success and safety. Their life in Afghanistan now long gone, Amir and Baba try to reconcile their differences in their new social circumstances. As a young adult, Amir begins to find his own place in society away from the shadow of his formidable father, but is unable to forget the betrayal of his childhood companion. Yet when he receives a phone call from Rahim Khan, the kindly mentor of his youth, he is offered the chance to be “good again”; this time, Amir takes it.
An epic portrayal of one man’s great struggle for acceptance, this novel is a masterful yet devastating story of what happens when the peace of an individual – and indeed perhaps of a nation – is ravaged into ruin. With delicate sensitivity Hosseini succeeds in presenting a complex and completely unlikeable protagonist as a victim of his own pride and insecurity, managing to almost use the reader’s frustration to propel Amir into finding a way to redeem his past mistakes.
I would highly recommend this novel as a reminder of how guilt can be surpassed, even after years of internal conflict, and transformed into greater happiness and personal freedom. Though Hosseini has been accused of stereotyping Afghan culture and failing to possess enough knowledge of it to write a truly accurate novel, it certainly prompts readers not to forget the heartbreaking personal battles that continue through war, and the resilience of some individuals in the face of oppression.
Whether Amir does find peace by the end of the novel is debatable, but its title provides a soaring hope: the wind can’t carry a kite forever, but it can carry it long enough for us to realise that perhaps “there is a way to be good again”.