Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini

I was able to read The Kite Runner during my traveling escapades of the past week. Considering that I read most of it either waiting for or sitting in an airplane, it was a very fast read.

I have two opinions on this book. My first is that it is beautifully written, with vivid descriptions and characters that reach out and grab you. You can really picture Ali, Hassan, Rahim Khan, Amir and his father and the tension between them. I also liked that there was a little bit of a twist in the storyline that helped Amir follow through with his search for forgiveness. The story flows wonderfully. Hosseini is very talented at foreshadowing events to come, giving you a sense of foreboding that pushes you to continue reading until the very end. I found it very hard to put it down.

My second feeling is thus: the New York Times Book Review chose the precise word when they used the word "haunting" to describe the story. It is a difficult read if you have a weak stomach. I warn those who avoid reading violence or abuse: this is not a book for you. There is some sexual abuse between children described, and sexual abuse between adult and child intimated. There is also physical violence described.

It is an important book. I say that because I think that it is important that we realize that these sorts of things are happening now--not just 60 years ago in World War II. Now. Today.

Friday, February 8, 2008

A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini

This book was urgently thrust at me by a fellow co-worker. She handed it to me with a sparkle in her eye, and said "You have to read this!" Now, it isn't often that my co-workers and I share books. My friend, Crystal, and I talk about books all the time, and we frequently stop by a bookstore whenever we hang out--though I think we have somewhat different tastes. Colleen and I hardly ever talk about books though, so I was a little astonished when she handed me A Thousand Splendid Suns. I had heard of Hosseini's other book, The Kite Runner, and that it was considered very great and that there was even a movie out based on it, but I hadn't gotten around to reading it yet. I think it was momentarily lost amongst the piles of books that line the walls of my parents' house. So, since Colleen decided to give me Hosseini's second novel with such urgency, I decided to oblige her and read three days. It is that good.

The story is through two points of view, telling the story of two Afghani women living in the city of Kabul. It tells of all the tragedy, joy, shame, and hope that pervade their lives. You know, you hear in the news all the time the restrictions that are placed on Muslim women in these Asian countries, but I never really took the time to understand their cultural norms. Luckily, Hosseini weaves them seamlessly throughout his story, introducing us to this culture that is all at once beautiful and dangerous. The story is breathtaking and beautifully told, and I'm not too ashamed to say that it made me absolutely sob at one point, crying in my room for these friends that I had only first met two days before. But you'll have to figure out what point that was by yourself. Read it yourself, and I'm sure you'll find your own tender points where you can cry, scream, or simply stare at the pages in utter disbelief.

I found the Kite Runner in the living room "pile." I think I'll start it tomorrow.