I sat against one of the house’s clay walls. The kinship I felt suddenly forthe old land…it surprised me. I’d been gone long enough to forget and be forgotten. I had a home in a land that might as well be in another galaxy to the people sleeping on the other side of the wall I leaned against. I thought I had forgotten about this land. But I hadn’t. And, under the bony glow of a half-moon, I sensed Afghanistan humming under my feet. Maybe Afghanistan hadn’t forgotten me either." (253)
This book was on Nuke’s list, but I’ve seen and heard of it other places. When I picked it up, I knew only that it was about Afghanistan.
For me, that one fact can sum up the entire book. The writing was okay, but not great. The plot moved along, but it was predictable and often seemd contrived. Where the book absolutely shines is in its depictions of Afghanistan and her people. The cultural aspects of the book were so amazing, that it made me sad that the other elements didn’t fall into place.
The plot revolves around the main character, Amir, and his childhood in Afghanistan. His friendship with his father’s servant’s son, Hassan, is central to the story. Amir is a Pashtun, Hassan is a Hazara. Hazara are the lowest class of Afghani society – they exist to serve the higher classes. It was poignant to read about the friendship between the two boys in tandem with descriptions of their daily life. Each morning, Hassan woke long before Amir in order to start the fire, launder and iron Amir’s clothes and serve him breakfast. Then Amir went to school while Hassan stayed behind to work.
Hassan loves his friend Amir and is endlessly loving and loyal to him. Amir has a lofty sense of entitlement and taunts Hassan because he can’t read. Ultimately, Amir betrays his loving and loyal friend in the most horrific way. Amir rejects Hassan but he lives with that guilt long after he has immigrated to the United States with his father, leaving Hassan behind. As an adult, Amir goes back to his homeland to visit a friend of his father. Afghanistan is under Taliban rule. Hassan’s family is in danger. Amir decides to do the one thing that can make things right.
I had trouble with parts of the story, particularly the ending. I hesitate to say very much, as I don’t want to spoil it for others. But suffice to say, I wish the author had researched child psychology before writing this book.
Overall, it was an okay read. Not fantastic or anything, but I learned a lot about the culture of Afghanistan and that alone made it worthwhile.