Thursday, July 12, 2018

Book Review: '2 Book Set: The Kite Runner + A Thousand Splendid Suns' by Khaled Hosseini

Khaled Hosseini confirms his brilliance as an author made in his best selling novel THE KITE RUNNER as one of those first novels that captured both public interest and the hearts of the many who read this story of childhood unconditional love and redemption set against three stormy decades in Afghanistan. With the arrival of A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS he is firmly placed in the realm of important communicators in literature, a writer who can offer a complex history of Afghanistan and the wars that have plagued that country for decades by creating characters whose development and interweaving lives provide a profoundly moving story. It is an amazing achievement and for this reader it even surpasses the superb KITE RUNNER.

While THE KITE RUNNER is the story of two devoted childhood friends separated by the caste of society (wealth vs. servant), the setting is such that for the first time we are able to understand the changes that occurred from the 1970s when Afghanistan was under the rule of the king, through Russian occupation, through the heinous rule of the Taliban, to the US entry into the brief war following 911. But this is not primarily a history book: Housseini adroitly uses the cultural aura and the warring background to explore the relationship of the two boys - Amir and Hassan - whose lives are far more intertwined than either would have ever thought.

As kite running happy children, boys who are in the rarefied atmosphere of imagination and dreams and camaraderie, an incident occurs that causes an abrupt schism and leads the cowardly Amir into a distancing from the needy Hassan, an act which eventually separates them as Amir and his wealthy father Baba move to the USA to escape the evils of the Taliban. The guilt that controls Amir's life ultimately drives him back to Afghanistan where he is able to find redemption for his past deeds in a most miraculous way. In the author's words: "Life goes on, unmindful of beginning, end, crisis or catharsis, moving forward like a slow, dusty caravan." "I wondered if that was how forgiveness budded, not with the fanfare of epiphany, but with the pain gathering its things, packing up, and slipping away unannounced in the middle of the night."

In A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS Hosseini's gift for visual painting with words is comparable to the best of writers: 'She could make out the minarets in the distance, like the dusty fingers of giants...', 'It's the friction of grain against grain', 'She watched the winds stir mutiny in the dust, whipping it into violent spirals whipped through the courtyard' and ultimately the 'poem' praising Kabul that offers the book its title - 'One could not count the moons that shimmers on her roofs/ Or the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls.' Hosseini takes us behind those walls for forty some years of Afghanistan's bloody history and while he does not spare us any of the descriptions of the terror that continues to besiege that country, he does offer us a story that speaks so tenderly about the fragile beauty of love and devotion and lasting impression people make on people. It is a microcosm of mankind, told with the ever-present history of war in the clouds that would try to hide the thousand splendid suns. These books are immensely important, poignantly pertinent to today's Middle East situation and two of the finer novels of recent years. Highly recommended. Grady Harp, June 18

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.