The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
I believe this is the first English novel written by and about Afghans and Afghanistan. For the first novel this is a pretty well written story. And besides the story it gives a good peep into the Afghanistan as it was and how it is today. It tells you about the psychology of Afghans, their small rituals, their values and the games they play. It is also a very sad story; you may not feel very happy at the end of the book.
There are primarily three layers in the story. First layer deals with the socio-political scenario in Afghan and the journey of a typical Afghani from 1960s to next century, and how their world has changed after the Russian invasion and the wars. How the most affluent people turned refugees and had to compromise their honor which is something that an Afghan cares for more than his own life. The Second layer is the story of a Afghani, who was born in the times of monarchy in Kabul, lives his childhood there and then during Russian invasions has to run with his father to Pakistan and then eventually to America. He comes back to Afghanistan after 20 years to take care of his guilt and a part of family that he never knew about, and encounters a different place, same people but a different life or rather no life. This is a story with all the twists and turns with some expected and some unexpected. The third layer of story deals with human psychology, the truths that one has to face and live with, the layers that you keep discovering on the people you think you know, the guilt of carrying a secret that you have never told anyone, the sudden explanation of unexplained behaviors when certain secrets are unveiled. It also talks about the class divides that exist in Afghan society as well, though I am not sure if I can call that a layer, although the main story revolves around that divide.
Khaled is a good story teller as he starts the story in the middle and then takes you through the past and then to the time ahead of middle point, almost like a figure of eight. Even the expected turns, he keeps you guessing. The writing style can be little tighter, at places he tends to drag it a bit. Can be a good weekend read…
One line that I really connected with my current situation was ‘moving from the certainty of turmoil to the uncertainty’…strange are such times that fill you with excitement and fear at the same time. Probably because I am going through a similar phase…:-)