This novel was one of those relatively recent ones that slipped through the cracks for me, like Cloud Atlas. I heard about it in passing, but that was all.
And then, something recently reminded me that I wanted to read Hosseini's debut novel, and I'm glad I did. The Kite Runner was, for me, a way in to the "history" of my own time, if you will. In other words, I was in college when the U.S. bombed Afghanistan, leading to over a decade of war, but wrapped up in my own reality of college life and grad school applications, I paid scant attention to the news. My mom would tell me about world events over the phone, and I'd watch TV when I was home on break, but that was about it. Afghanistan and Iraq seemed beyond distant to me.
What did draw me into trying to understand what was happening in Afghanistan was a National Geographic article about the Taliban's destruction of massive Buddhist statues. Later, I read a different article about the plight of Afghanistan's museums and the measures taken to preserve and protect priceless artifacts. Art, therefore, was my way in. I was so indignant (still am) that anyone would destroy old works of art- something I had felt even when learning about Europe's destruction during WWII.
The Kite Runner, though, opened up another door to the turmoil in Afghanistan. As many books do, this one sent me to the encyclopedia to look up the history of Hosseini's native country (I focused on the 19th and 20th centuries). This was information I never received in school. I could then read The Kite Runner with the help of context, and try to begin to understand the ethnic and political tensions that make up and divide that country (something all nations struggle with). Further, the narrative arc was perfect for telling a story in which past and present intermingled freely.
This story about family, guilt, redemption, and exile reminds me a lot of a more recent novel, Night in Shanghai, which also blends a story of individuals struggling against outside forces, and on a large scale, the toll that war takes on people. The scope of these issues, though, begs for a much longer novel, something massive enough to explore the many facets of conflict and human nature (i.e. something Tolstoy-long). Of course, neither novel tried to be an epic tale encompassing a gazillion characters, but the blending of historical events and fictional characters always, to me, calls for something grand. Nonetheless, The Kite Runner was beautifully written and has sparked my interest in Hosseini's subsequent novels.