Many books have been published since the American occupation of Afghanistan but none of them has captured the essence of what makes Afghans so distinctive people. Published in 2003, the novel tells the story of a young Afghan boy and the world around him. Throughout the novel as the boy grows, the implications of his childhood actions continue to haunt him making him search for solace and redemption. This can only be achieved in the place he calls home – Afghanistan.
For a first time writer, Khaled Hosseini does an amazing job at capturing the mindset of a young boy and his emotional turmoil. Though the novel deals with various time periods in Afghanistan – from its prosperous age to Soviet occupation to Taliban’s atrocious rule, there is only a subtle political air about the narrative. Though the novel deals with problems faced by the Afghans in the political turmoil over the time, the central idea is nowhere near the same. Instead, the novel deals with emotions which control one’s actions. The major part of the book is ridden with guilt on the part of the central character Amir. The narrative is superbly handled by the author as we see the Afghan community through the eyes of Amir. The narrative takes us to the very heart of Afghanistan, the culture and the lifestyle of the then prosperous Afghanistan. Amir belongs to a prosperous family and lives a good life in Wazir Akbar Khan district of Kabul. Though he has some issues with his father he manage to indulge in his hobby of writing and playing with his loyal friend Amir. Though he was Amir’s servant’s son, the loyalty of Hassan towards Amir never faltered. But, during the course of story, there are some questionable actions on the part of Amir resulting from which we see betrayal and guilt which torments him forever.
The second and third acts of the novel take place in the turbulent times of Afghanistan’s history. First, attack by the Soviets leaves the country jarred and then the autocratic rule of the Taliban destroys almost all the fundamentals of the old and prosperous Afghanistan. This forces Amir to leave Afghanistan for the US and we follow his family’s struggle in the US. Still, the feeling of guilt continues to nag the now adult Amir. The repercussions of his childhood actions haunt his present life. Unsettled by remorse, he knows he has to return to Afghanistan. Finally he gets his chance at redemption and travels the long rough road to the Taliban’s Afghanistan.
The whole novel beautifully showcases the fall of the once prosperous Afghanistan to a nightmare of poverty and hunger and despair. The stark comparison of the two times in the history of the country gives us the lay of what might have been experienced by the simple folk of Afghanistan. The problems due to the war and political unrest are showcased in the sidelines in the novel. It feels as if the intent of the author was not to tell the story of Afghan woes told countless times but the story of a simple human being ready to face adversities for one shot at redemption. There are several twists and turns in the end and some nail-biting moments common to the thriller segment. But these elements do not affect the narrative and get lost in the deluge of emotions thrown at the reader.
In 2007, a movie of the same name was released worldwide and was nominated for the Golden Globe Award and an Academy Award. The book was well received in many countries though there have been some controversies related to the content of the book but still, it continues to be a good read in many circles. Khaled Hosseini, with his powerful first book has established himself as a writer with a keen hand on emotions and a binding narrative to keep a reader hooked to the end.
The novel is recommended to people in need of something new yet powerful. The book provides insights into the Afghan culture and traditions from a new perspective and will certainly help to understand the Afghan people in a better manner.