The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

The blurb at the front of the book says that this "... is a novel about friendship, betrayal and the price of loyalty. It is about the bonds between fathers and sons, and the power of fathers over sons..." I agree, but it is also a story about love: the need to be loved or, at the very least, the need to belong. Moreover, it is a book about choices and the responsibility that is an integral part of any choice. It is not always that we want to assume full responsibility for our choices, and the degree of responsibility we accept or do not accept will, in turn, often instigate other choices and other degrees of responsibility.

(Please note: spoilers in this paragraph)  
Baba's liaison with Ali's wife is a choice he makes, but he then weighs his need to take full responsibility for his son Hassan against the social mores of the day and place. He straddles the line, hoping that material gifts will, in some way, obliterate his responsibility on a deeper, emotional level. He chooses not to tell Amir that he has a half-brother which, in turn, impacts on the way Amir relates to Hassan, who, by virtue of his mother, belongs to the Hazara minority which is looked down upon, especially by the Pashtuns - the ruling class to which Amir and his father belong. Amir makes a choice not to go to Hassan's assistance in his time of need, and it takes almost the whole book for him to realize that, eventually, he has to take responsibility for that action - or lack of action - by taking care of Hassan's son, Sohrab. It is impossible to run away from the choices we make.

The book is well written and it gives an indirect but very poignant picture of Afghanistan before the Russian invasion (and, of course, before the invasion by America and her allies). It is obvious that the author has lived in Afghanistan, because he brings it alive in a manner that is very difficult to do if one has not actually experienced the smells, the sights, the nuances of light and the sounds of the land and its people.

I felt that the story was extremely well-balanced, and I was very pleased that it did not have the obviously happy ending that could have been possible, and would probably have been the case, had the author been completely American and not only by proxy. 

 Photo of Khaled Hosseini from