As the snow continues to fall and blistery winds remind those living in the Hoosier state that winter is still upon us, I've been reflecting on novels that are a good read for these cold, winter nights.
Written by Afghan-born author Khaled Hosseini and published in 2003, The Kite Runner tells the story of Amir, a young Pashtun boy living in Kabul with his extremely wealthy father Baba in the 1970s. Baba's houseservant Ali and young son Hassan (both of the Hazara ethnic group) live on their premises as well. Amir and Hassan have grown up like brothers, just like Ali and Baba had grown up like brothers after Baba's father adopted Ali when both men were still very young.
Amir and Hassan spend their days climbing trees, going to the movie theater, and telling stories. Amir often struggles with his feelings towards Hassan who is technically his servant. Amir is constantly teased by the bullies on the street for associating himself with a Hazara, and it is in these moments that Amir begins to resent Hassan for who he is. On the one hand Hassan is the best friend he has ever had, on the other hand he is of an inferior ethnic group (or so many of the people around him see it), and Amir is constantly being reminded of it.
Amir is also constantly vying for his father's affections and is often jealous of Hassan's athletic ability, which he knows Baba greatly admires. Amir's only talents seem to be in the realm of creativity and writing. Baba's friend, Rahim Khan understands Amir's desire to be a writer and encourages this dream of his. Amir only wishes that his own father, Baba, could encourage this desire as well.
The one thing that both Hassan and Amir know how to do well is fly kites. During the winter season in Afghanistan, tournaments in kite running are held in Amir and Hassan's city of Kabul. The goal of kite flying and running tournaments is to fly one's kite so well so as to 'clip' off the other kites and knock them out of the air. It is the job of a kite runner to follow the fallen kite through the city and catch it as it heads towards the ground. Hassan is one of the most skilled kite runners in the city.
On the day of a big tournament, Amir is ready to prove himself to be a son Baba can be proud of. As Baba and Ali watch their sons participate in the tournament, Amir is elated when he clips his final competitor's kite and wins the tournament. Amir watches as Hassan goes to chase after the falling kite and prove himself to be the number one kite runner.
But only moments after the celebration of the kite running tournament, tragedy strikes. A tragic event occurs that changes not only Hassan and Amir's life forever, but the lives of their fathers as well. What happens will divide the two families and take them on a journey they could have never imagined.
The novel follows Amir throughout the next twenty to thirty years of his life as he struggles to reconcile himself with the events of his childhood. Secrets are revealed that will shock the readers and leave them asking more and more questions.
The reader also journeys with Amir as he attempts to clear his conscience of the mistakes he made as a child and live a peaceful life as an adult.
Hosseini does an amazing job of helping us feel not only Amir's pain and guilt, but he helps us feel the emotions of Hassan, Baba and Amir as well. Hosseini also takes us through several decades of change in the politically tumultuous world of Afghanistan and the promising world of America.
So take some time while you watch the snow fall to heat up a mug of hot chocolate and dive into The Kite Runner. It is a book that will definitely warm your heart on these cold, wintry days.