December 7, 2015

On My Bookshelf: The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini is a heartbreaking tale of brothers growing up as friends and torn apart by war. One, privileged and wealthy, escapes to America, while the other, poor and a racial minority, is killed by the Taliban. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.
Basic plot from Amazon: The unforgettable, heartbreaking story of the unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father's servant, The Kite Runner is a beautifully crafted novel set in a country that is in the process of being destroyed. It is about the power of reading, the price of betrayal, and the possibility of redemption; and an exploration of the power of fathers over sons—their love, their sacrifices, their lies.

A sweeping story of family, love, and friendship told against the devastating backdrop of the history of Afghanistan over the last thirty years, The Kite Runner is an unusual and powerful novel that has become a beloved, one-of-a-kind classic.

Why I liked it: The main character Amir is far from perfect. As a privileged young man, he is often cruel and unkind to his closest friend, Hassan, who is later revealed to be his half brother. Hassan, though poor and uneducated, is honest, trustworthy, and upstanding, while Amir lies, betrays, and thinks only of himself. Amir resents his father's affections for Hassan and tries to turn his father against him. In the second half of the novel, Amir has the chance to redeem himself for his actions toward Hassan by returning to Afghanistan to save Hassan's son, Sohrab.

As the threat of war becomes more and more imminent, Amir and his father escape to America where their relationship slowly reverses and Amir finally has the chance to grow close to and begin to understand his father. This, along with Amir's efforts to save Sohrab, allows the novel to come full circle. Its ending is imperfect, but realistic. Amir does return to America with Sohrab, but Sohrab's suffering is not left behind in his homeland. The final scenes of the novel show that he cannot quickly rebound from his experiences. but is slowly making progress.

Classroom application: First, let me say that I would only recommend this novel for high school and probably only the upper grades of that. There are some very graphic, violent scenes including rape and beating. I listened to the book on audio tape and at points I wanted to cover my ears. In an English class, the novel could be a choice in literature circles with a coming of age theme or a world cultures theme. Conflict is also a strong theme in the novel as the powerless struggle against the powerful.

While fictional, the novel could be used in a history class paired with units on issues in the Middle East, the Russian/Afghan war, Islamic culture, the Taliban, class issues or immigration.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of The Kite Runner for yourself, you can find it on Amazon here.

Note: The Literary Maven is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

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