This book works on two levels. One being that it tells a story of Afghanistan, what the country was like before war and the effects the different wars have had on the people of that country. The second purpose it serves is that of being a story of two young boys and their fathers, a story that is something of a tale of lies and guilt and betrayal and redemption.
Over the past few years I’ve tried to read all I can about stories of the Middle East. I’m a news junkie and the tidbits they feed us on the news makes me crave more. I want to know as much as possible about this part of the world, this section of the world so mired in turmoil, that has such a strong effect on our country. That being said, I really enjoyed the element of the book that described Afghanistan. You learn about the country through the eyes of the people who live there. The book provides a much more personal understanding than can be provided on CNN. What I always appreciate most when reading stories about other countries is the knowledge that ultimately we all want the same things. As different as we may seem, we are very similar. We still take care of our families, we play games, and we have big parties. Another lesson to be learned from the stories of Afghanistan are the dangers that can happen when you allow a country to be ruled by religion. Religion should be a personal and private thing, not something dictated by government.
The storyline involving Amir and Hassan and their fathers, Baba and Ali is also very interesting. This is a well-written book, very much a page-turner. There are scenes in this book that could be very horrible and gruesome, but I felt the author handled them in a way that maintained the necessary horror without making the reading unbearable.
I very strongly disliked the character of Amir, who is the narrator of the story. He’s so weak and selfish and jealous. He does some terrible things, allows terrible things to happen as a result of his inaction. I found myself becoming so angered by him because he has so many chances to correct the things he’s done wrong, before they get worse. Instead he makes things worse and he stands by like a coward. He claims he knows what he did wrong, but still he’s claiming he did it for his father’s love. When in fact, he never seems to grasp how deeply his actions hurt his father – his father, who gave up so much for him. Even in the end when his actions should seem obvious, he’s hesitant and cowardly. “But I have a wife and career in America” – he’s whining in the end, and you just want someone to say to him, “But you ruined so many other lives.”
Near the end of the book though, when Amir returns to Afghanistan and confronts the Taliban, some of the coincidences began to get a little absurd. This I found somewhat bothersome. I thought the story felt very real up to that point. Then I just sort of though, “yeah, right that would happen…”
This is a very, very sad story. Unlike other sad stories that I’ve complained about though, I do think there is much to be gained from reading this.
Finished reading Aug. 22, 2005