Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Kite Runner: A Review by Janell Sims

This is the ninth of a many-part series written by the staff and editors of Fringe Magazine, who will be reviewing books from the Pool as part of the 25 Books Project.

I know what you’re thinking: Please oh please, not another schmaltzy review of this over-popular book. I know, I hate popular books. Instant bestsellers instantly fall to the bottom of my reading list. But with this one, curiosity and a friend’s desperate pleas got the better of me. I stealthily read The Kite Runner on a plane ride to Dallas, where I was sure no one would see it in my hands.

You know the story: Amir grows up in Afghanistan with his father Baba and their servants Ali and his son Hassan. Baba and Amir leave for America in the 80s, then Amir returns in 2001 to redeem himself for the unforgivable act he allowed to happen to Hassan during their childhood. Conveniently he runs into the same cast of characters in Afghanistan that he left behind 20 years before.

The story is unrealistic. The plot is contrived. Hassan’s character is uncomfortably close to perfect. So why am I promoting this novel as one of this quarter-century’s best?

The inherent flaws work to the novel’s advantage as an allegory: to paint a more vivid picture of forgiveness than what can be accomplished when hurdling real-life obstacles. As a best-selling novel, The Kite Runner is a good read with interesting insight into a culture most Americans have never conceptualized. But what makes this book stand out among other cross-cultural novels is its allegorical depiction of the depths of redemption. It refuses to mimic life and so is free to depict these larger themes in their purity.

And despite the contrived plot, I found the writing particularly balanced and interesting. Amir finds forgiveness comes “not with the fanfare of epiphany, but with pain gathering its things, packing up, and slipping away unannounced in the middle of the night” (359).

So if you read The Kite Runner and only saw the surface story, whether you were gripped by it or apathetic, I would challenge you to read it on a deeper level and experience the complexity of redemption that transcends character and plot.

Janell Sims is the Publicity Director for Fringe Magazine.


Bryan D. Catherman said...

This is a great review. I read THE KITE RUNNER and saw a deep story, but I struggled to understand how the seep story came from the pages it did. You've done a nice job articulating my missing "how." I loved the book and I appreciate your review.

Amanda said...

Thanks for the review. This book has been on my shelf to read for over a year. I also saw the preview of the movie this past weekend. Perhaps, I'll actually read the book now.

Matt said...

I know I risk this comment backfiring when the angry mobs of Kite Runner fans overreact and attack my dislike of the book, but please don't vote for this as one of our top 25 books. It would be a shame to have a book so poorly written beside a work like Housekeeping, in which each sentence glitters with hidden craft, or The Quick and the Dead, where people speak the most interesting things you will ever read and eloquence is a natural symptom of life so close to death. Though in some ways a compelling read, this book just does not belong beside greater works of literature.