I love this book, which I had bought for my sons to read when the book was first published in 2003, but had never read it, thinking it was parked under the young adult coming of age genre. Better late than never.
This book provides a rich and sad narrative of bygone eras, forever lost to the people of Afghanistan since the Russian invasion and subsequently the never ending wars. Afghanistan was, until this book, yet another one of the many Middle East countries forever engaged in conflicts, one country which appears regularly on a page in my local papers which I’d scanned the headlines and turned the page without reading further. I did protest aloud when the Taliban destroyed the giant Buddhas in Bamiyan, and took a second glance at the charismatic president Hamid Karzai, but other than that, I didn’t really know much about the country, unlike Iran, which I had some knowledge of from the few Iranian movies I had watched.
(Warning : spoiler ahead)
The story begins with two boys, Amir, a privilege boy, and his servant companion, Hassan. Amir tries to live up to his father’s expectation, sometimes at the expense of Hassan, whom he harbours jealousy for the affection his father showers on him. Although they play together, Amir has never considered him a friend, and even go so far as to drive them Hassan and his father Ali away.
The story continues with the Taliban driving out the Russians but life in Afghanistan becomes worse, so much that Amir and his father escape to USA, Baba leaving behind the life of luxury in order to pursue a life of freedom and hope for Amir.
And then Amir discovers a secret when he is summoned back to Afghanistan, which allows him an opportunity to redeem the guilt buried in him since Hassan left his house.
Not only does this book provide us with valuable Afghanistan culture-the social class divide between the Sunni and shite Muslims and the ethnic groups, it’s also rich in its description of human conflicts, both internal and external, for which readers will easily empathize with.
With the current global situation with terrorism, I can’t help but agree with how Amir’s father view his religion with disdain, and how ironically, Amir embraces his religion at the end, despite seeing how religion was misused to destroy and torture his beloved counttry.