The Kite Runner (Essential Edition) by Khaled Hosseini, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble
The Kite Runner

The Kite Runner

4.6 2295
by Khaled Hosseini
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

The New York Times bestseller and international classic loved by millions of readers.

The unforgettable, heartbreaking story of the unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father's servant, The Kite Runner is a beautifully crafted novel set in a country that is in the process of being destroyed. It is about the power of reading,

Overview

The New York Times bestseller and international classic loved by millions of readers.

The unforgettable, heartbreaking story of the unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father's servant, The Kite Runner is a beautifully crafted novel set in a country that is in the process of being destroyed. It is about the power of reading, the price of betrayal, and the possibility of redemption; and an exploration of the power of fathers over sons—their love, their sacrifices, their lies.

A sweeping story of family, love, and friendship told against the devastating backdrop of the history of Afghanistan over the last thirty years, The Kite Runner is an unusual and powerful novel that has become a beloved, one-of-a-kind classic.

 

Editorial Reviews

Boston Globe
Soaring Debut.
The Philadelphia Inquirer
Exquisite. A wonderfully conjured story that offers a glimpse into an Afghanistan most Americans have never seen, and depicts a side of humanity rarely revealed.
The Denver Post
A beautiful novel. Ranks among the best-written and most provocative stories of the year so far. Hosseini is an exhilaratingly original writer with a gift for irony and a gentle, perspective heart.
From the Publisher
"Soaring Debut." —Boston Globe

"Exquisite. A wonderfully conjured story that offers a glimpse into an Afghanistan most Americans have never seen, and depicts a side of humanity rarely revealed." —The Philadelphia Inquirer

"A beautiful novel. Ranks among the best-written and most provocative stories of the year so far. Hosseini is an exhilaratingly original writer with a gift for irony and a gentle, perspective heart." —The Denver Post

“A moving portrait of modern Afghanistan, from its pre-Russian-invasion glory days through the terrible reign of the Taliban."—Entertainment Weekly

bn.com
Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
"I became what I am today at the age of twelve, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975." So begins The Kite Runner, a poignant tale of two motherless boys growing up in Kabul, a city teetering on the brink of destruction at the dawn of the Soviet invasion.

Despite their class differences, Amir, the son of a wealthy businessman, and Hassan, his devoted sidekick and the son of Amir's household servant, play together, cause mischief together, and compete in the annual kite-fighting tournament -- Amir flying the kite, and Hassan running down the kites they fell. But one day, Amir betrays Hassan, and his betrayal grows increasingly devastating as their tale continues. Amir will spend much of his life coming to terms with his initial and subsequent acts of cowardice, and finally seek to make reparations.

Hosseini's depiction of the cruelty children suffer at the hands of their "friends" will break your heart. And his descriptions of Afghanistan both before and after the war will haunt readers long after they've read the last page. The Kite Runner is a stunning reminder that the dark hearts of adults are made, step-by-step, by the hatred they learn as children, and that all it takes for evil to triumph is for a good man to stand back and do nothing. (Summer 2003 Selection)

The New York Times
In The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini gives us a vivid and engaging story that reminds us how long his people have been struggling to triumph over the forces of violence -- forces that continue to threaten them even today. — Edward Hower
San Jose Mercury News
...ranks among the best-written and most provocative stories of the year...enlightening and fascinating...intimate and poignant. (June 29, 2003)
The Washington Post
Hosseini clearly loves his country as much as he hates what has become of it. — Pamela Constable
Albuquerque Journal
Hosseini's book is more than a typical coming-of-age story. Rather it is about personal salvation, betrayal, and redemption.
People
...this extraordinary first novel locates the personal struggles of everyday people in the terrible sweep of history.
Publishers Weekly
Hosseini's stunning debut novel starts as an eloquent Afghan version of the American immigrant experience in the late 20th century, but betrayal and redemption come to the forefront when the narrator, a writer, returns to his ravaged homeland to rescue the son of his childhood friend after the boy's parents are shot during the Taliban takeover in the mid '90s. Amir, the son of a well-to-do Kabul merchant, is the first-person narrator, who marries, moves to California and becomes a successful novelist. But he remains haunted by a childhood incident in which he betrayed the trust of his best friend, a Hazara boy named Hassan, who receives a brutal beating from some local bullies. After establishing himself in America, Amir learns that the Taliban have murdered Hassan and his wife, raising questions about the fate of his son, Sohrab. Spurred on by childhood guilt, Amir makes the difficult journey to Kabul, only to learn the boy has been enslaved by a former childhood bully who has become a prominent Taliban official. The price Amir must pay to recover the boy is just one of several brilliant, startling plot twists that make this book memorable both as a political chronicle and a deeply personal tale about how childhood choices affect our adult lives. The character studies alone would make this a noteworthy debut, from the portrait of the sensitive, insecure Amir to the multilayered development of his father, Baba, whose sacrifices and scandalous behavior are fully revealed only when Amir returns to Afghanistan and learns the true nature of his relationship to Hassan. Add an incisive, perceptive examination of recent Afghan history and its ramifications in both America and the Middle East, and the result is a complete work of literature that succeeds in exploring the culture of a previously obscure nation that has become a pivot point in the global politics of the new millennium. (June 2) Forecast: It is rare that a book is at once so timely and of such high literary quality. Though Afghanistan is now on the media back burner, its fate is still of major interest and may become even more so as the U.S.'s nation-building efforts are scrutinized. 10-city author tour; foreign rights sold in Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Israel, Spain, Sweden and the U.K. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
This painful, moving, remarkable debut novel depicts the childhood, adolescence, and adulthood of a deeply flawed protagonist. Growing up in Kabul, Afghanistan, Amir feels unloved by his widowed father, who seems to care more for Hassan, the son of their Hazara servant, Ali. Amir and Hassan are close but not quite friends. On what should have been the best day of his young life, when he wins a kite-flying contest and finally some respect from his father, Amir betrays Hassan and becomes haunted by guilt. Amir comes to California when the Soviets invade his country but returns years later to rescue Hassan's orphaned son from the Taliban and redeem himself. Hosseini, a physician in the San Francisco area, has a wonderful gift for developing distinctive characters and creating a strong sense of place. While far from polished, his narration offers a profound sincerity that might have been missing with a professional reader. A sad and violent yet beautiful and unforgettable story; highly recommended for all collections, especially those with interests in the American immigrant experience.-Michael Adams, CUNY Graduate Ctr. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-This beautifully written first novel presents a glimpse of life in Afghanistan before the Russian invasion and introduces richly drawn, memorable characters. Quiet, intellectual Amir craves the attention of his father, a wealthy Kabul businessman. Kind and self-confident Hassan is the son of Amir's father's servant. The motherless boys play together daily, and when Amir wins the annual kite contest, Hassan offers to track down the opponent's runaway kite as a prize. When he finds it, the neighborhood bullies trap and rape him, as Amir stands by too terrified to help. Their lives and their friendship are forever changed, and the memory of his cowardice haunts Amir as he grows into manhood. Hassan and his father return to the village of their ancestors, and later Amir and his father flee to Los Angeles to avoid political persecution. Amir attends college, marries, and fulfills his dream of becoming a writer. When Amir receives word of his former friend's death under the Taliban, he returns to Kabul to learn the fate of Hassan's son. This gripping story of personal redemption will capture readers' interest.-Penny Stevens, Andover College, Portland, ME Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Here’s a real find: a striking debut from an Afghan now living in the US. His passionate story of betrayal and redemption is framed by Afghanistan’s tragic recent past. Moving back and forth between Afghanistan and California, and spanning almost 40 years, the story begins in Afghanistan in the tranquil 1960s. Our protagonist Amir is a child in Kabul. The most important people in his life are Baba and Hassan. Father Baba is a wealthy Pashtun merchant, a larger-than-life figure, fretting over his bookish weakling of a son (the mother died giving birth); Hassan is his sweet-natured playmate, son of their servant Ali and a Hazara. Pashtuns have always dominated and ridiculed Hazaras, so Amir can’t help teasing Hassan, even though the Hazara staunchly defends him against neighborhood bullies like the "sociopath" Assef. The day, in 1975, when 12-year-old Amir wins the annual kite-fighting tournament is the best and worst of his young life. He bonds with Baba at last but deserts Hassan when the latter is raped by Assef. And it gets worse. With the still-loyal Hassan a constant reminder of his guilt, Amir makes life impossible for him and Ali, ultimately forcing them to leave town. Fast forward to the Russian occupation, flight to America, life in the Afghan exile community in the Bay Area. Amir becomes a writer and marries a beautiful Afghan; Baba dies of cancer. Then, in 2001, the past comes roaring back. Rahim, Baba’s old business partner who knows all about Amir’s transgressions, calls from Pakistan. Hassan has been executed by the Taliban; his son, Sohrab, must be rescued. Will Amir wipe the slate clean? So he returns to the hell of Taliban-ruled Afghanistan and reclaims Sohrab from aTaliban leader (none other than Assef) after a terrifying showdown. Amir brings the traumatized child back to California and a bittersweet ending. Rather than settle for a coming-of-age or travails-of-immigrants story, Hosseini has folded them both into this searing spectacle of hard-won personal salvation. All this, and a rich slice of Afghan culture too: irresistible. Author tour. Agent: Elaine Koster
Entertainment Weekly
A moving portrait of modern Afghanistan.
The New York Times Book Review
This powerful first novel...tells the story of fierce cruelty and fierce yet redeeming love. Both transform the life of Amir, Khaled Hosseini's privileged young narrator, who comes of age during the last peaceful days of the monarchy, just before his country's revolution and its invasion by Russian forces. But political events, even as dramatic as the ones that are presented in The Kite Runner, are only a part of this story. In The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini gives us a vivid and engaging story that reminds us how long his people have been struggling to triumph over the forces of violence—forces that continue to threaten them even today.
The Washington Post Book World
A powerful book...no frills, no nonsense, just hard, spare prose...an intimate account of family and friendship, betrayal and salvation that requires no atlas or translation to engage and enlighten us. Parts of The Kite Runner are raw and excruciating to read, yet the book in its entirety is lovingly written.
Children's Literature - Kristin Sutton
As Amir and Hassan deal with the trials of normal childhood in Afghanistan, they must also deal with class discrepancies and an impending war. As their culture threatens, and eventually succeeds, in tearing them apart, Amir finds his life irreversibly changed by the acts of cruel children who consistently bully Hassan because of his class. This historically educational novel goes on to tell of Amir and his father's escape from Afghanistan and the life they create in America. But even after years in America, during which he loses his father and finds a wife, Amir returns to Afghanistan where he learns of his father's ancient secret. Stunned to learn that his recently deceased childhood friend, whom he has not seen in years, was in fact his half brother, Amir embarks on an adventure to rescue Hassan's son from the Afghani government. This novel portrays friendship at its strongest, spanning years and distance to bring Amir and Hassan back together in spirit if nothing else. Reviewer: Kristin Sutton

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781573222457
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
05/29/2003
Pages:
336
Sales rank:
167,383
Product dimensions:
6.31(w) x 9.25(h) x 1.09(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt

KHALED HOSSEINI was born in Kabul, Afghanistan, the son of a diplomat whose family received political asylum in the United States in 1980. He lives in northern California, where he is a physician. The Kite Runner is his first novel.

KHALED HOSSEINI

THE KITE RUNNER

RIVERHEAD BOOKS
NEW YORK

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

CHAPTER ONE

CHAPTER TWO

CHAPTER THREE

CHAPTER FOUR

CHAPTER FIVE

CHAPTER SIX

CHAPTER SEVEN

CHAPTER EIGHT

CHAPTER NINE

CHAPTER TEN

CHAPTER ELEVEN

CHAPTER TWELVE

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

CHAPTER NINETEEN

CHAPTER TWENTY

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE

CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR

CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I am indebted to the following colleagues for their advice, assistance, or support: Dr. Alfred Lerner, Dori Vakis, Robin Heck, Dr. Todd Dray, Dr. Robert Tull, and Dr. Sandy Chun. Thanks also to Lynette Parker of East San Jose Community Law Center for her advice about adoption procedures, and to Mr. Daoud Wahab for sharing his experiences in Afghanistan with me. I am grateful to my dear friend Tamim Ansary for his guidance and support and to the gang at the San Francisco Writers Workshop for their feedback and encouragement. I want to thank my father, my oldest friend and the inspiration for all that is noble in Baba; my mother who prayed for me and did nazr at every stage of this book’s writing; my aunt for buying me books when I was young. Thanks go out to Ali, Sandy, Daoud, Walid, Raya, Shalla, Zahra, Rob, and Kader for reading my stories. I want to thank Dr. and Mrs. Kayoumy—my other parents—for their warmth and unwavering support.

I must thank my agent and friend, Elaine Koster, for her wisdom, patience, and gracious ways, as well as Cindy Spiegel, my keen-eyed and judicious editor who helped me unlock so many doors in this tale. And I would like to thank Susan Petersen Kennedy for taking a chance on this book and the hardworking staff at Riverhead for laboring over it.

Last, I don’t know how to thank my lovely wife, Roya—to whose opinion I am addicted—for her kindness and grace, and for reading, re-reading, and helping me edit every single draft of this novel. For your patience and understanding, I will always love you, Roya jan.

THE KITE RUNNER

ONE

December 2001

I became what I am today at the age of twelve, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975. I remember the precise moment, crouching behind a crumbling mud wall, peeking into the alley near the frozen creek. That was a long time ago, but it’s wrong what they say about the past, I’ve learned, about how you can bury it. Because the past claws its way out. Looking back now, I realize I have been peeking into that deserted alley for the last twenty-six years.

One day last summer, my friend Rahim Khan called from Pakistan. He asked me to come see him. Standing in the kitchen with the receiver to my ear, I knew it wasn’t just Rahim Khan on the line. It was my past of unatoned sins. After I hung up, I went for a walk along Spreckels Lake on the northern edge of Golden Gate Park. The early-afternoon sun sparkled on the water where dozens of miniature boats sailed, propelled by a crisp breeze. Then I glanced up and saw a pair of kites, red with long blue tails, soaring in the sky. They danced high above the trees on the west end of the park, over the windmills, floating side by side like a pair of eyes looking down on San Francisco, the city I now call home. And suddenly Hassan’s voice whispered in my head: For you, a thousand times over. Hassan the harelipped kite runner.

I sat on a park bench near a willow tree. I thought about something Rahim Khan said just before he hung up, almost as an afterthought. There is a way to be good again. I looked up at those twin kites. I thought about Hassan. Thought about Baba. Ali. Kabul. I thought of the life I had lived until the winter of 1975 came along and changed everything. And made me what I am today.

TWO

When we were children, Hassan and I used to climb the poplar trees in the driveway of my father’s house and annoy our neighbors by reflecting sunlight into their homes with a shard of mirror. We would sit across from each other on a pair of high branches, our naked feet dangling, our trouser pockets filled with dried mulberries and walnuts. We took turns with the mirror as we ate mulberries, pelted each other with them, giggling, laughing. I can still see Hassan up on that tree, sunlight flickering through the leaves on his almost perfectly round face, a face like a Chinese doll chiseled from hardwood: his flat, broad nose and slanting, narrow eyes like bamboo leaves, eyes that looked, depending on the light, gold, green, even sapphire. I can still see his tiny low-set ears and that pointed stub of a chin, a meaty appendage that looked like it was added as a mere afterthought. And the cleft lip, just left of midline, where the Chinese doll maker’s instrument may have slipped, or perhaps he had simply grown tired and careless.

Sometimes, up in those trees, I talked Hassan into firing walnuts with his slingshot at the neighbor’s one-eyed German shepherd. Hassan never wanted to, but if I asked, really asked, he wouldn’t deny me. Hassan never denied me anything. And he was deadly with his slingshot. Hassan’s father, Ali, used to catch us and get mad, or as mad as someone as gentle as Ali could ever get. He would wag his finger and wave us down from the tree. He would take the mirror and tell us what his mother had told him, that the devil shone mirrors too, shone them to distract Muslims during prayer. “And he laughs while he does it,” he always added, scowling at his son.

“Yes, Father,” Hassan would mumble, looking down at his feet. But he never told on me. Never told that the mirror, like shooting walnuts at the neighbor’s dog, was always my idea.

The poplar trees lined the redbrick driveway, which led to a pair of wrought-iron gates. They in turn opened into an extension of the driveway into my father’s estate. The house sat on the left side of the brick path, the backyard at the end of it.

Everyone agreed that my father, my Baba, had built the most beautiful house in the Wazir Akbar Khan district, a new and affluent neighborhood in the northern part of Kabul. Some thought it was the prettiest house in all of Kabul. A broad entryway flanked by rosebushes led to the sprawling house of marble floors and wide windows. Intricate mosaic tiles, handpicked by Baba in Isfahan, covered the floors of the four bathrooms. Gold-stitched tapestries, which Baba had bought in Calcutta, lined the walls; a crystal chandelier hung from the vaulted ceiling.

Upstairs was my bedroom, Baba’s room, and his study, also known as “the smoking room,” which perpetually smelled of tobacco and cinnamon. Baba and his friends reclined on black leather chairs there after Ali had served dinner. They stuffed their pipes—except Baba always called it “fattening the pipe”—and discussed their favorite three topics: politics, business, soccer. Sometimes I asked Baba if I could sit with them, but Baba would stand in the doorway. “Go on, now,” he’d say. “This is grown-ups’ time. Why don’t you go read one of those books of yours?” He’d close the door, leave me to wonder why it was always grown-ups’ time with him. I’d sit by the door, knees drawn to my chest. Sometimes I sat there for an hour, sometimes two, listening to their laughter, their chatter.

The living room downstairs had a curved wall with custom-built cabinets. Inside sat framed family pictures: an old, grainy photo of my grandfather and King Nadir Shah taken in 1931, two years before the king’s assassination; they are standing over a dead deer, dressed in knee-high boots, rifles slung over their shoulders. There was a picture of my parents’ wedding night, Baba dashing in his black suit and my mother a smiling young princess in white. Here was Baba and his best friend and business partner, Rahim Khan, standing outside our house, neither one smiling—I am a baby in that photograph and Baba is holding me, looking tired and grim. I’m in his arms, but it’s Rahim Khan’s pinky my fingers are curled around.

The curved wall led into the dining room, at the center of which was a mahogany table that could easily sit thirty guests—and, given my father’s taste for extravagant parties, it did just that almost every week. On the other end of the dining room was a tall marble fireplace, always lit by the orange glow of a fire in the wintertime.

A large sliding glass door opened into a semicircular terrace that overlooked two acres of backyard and rows of cherry trees. Baba and Ali had planted a small vegetable garden along the eastern wall: tomatoes, mint, peppers, and a row of corn that never really took. Hassan and I used to call it “the Wall of Ailing Corn.”

On the south end of the garden, in the shadows of a loquat tree, was the servants’ home, a modest little mud hut where Hassan lived with his father.

It was there, in that little shack, that Hassan was born in the winter of 1964, just one year after my mother died giving birth to me.

In the eighteen years that I lived in that house, I stepped into Hassan and Ali’s quarters only a handful of times. When the sun dropped low behind the hills and we were done playing for the day, Hassan and I parted ways. I went past the rosebushes to Baba’s mansion, Hassan to the mud shack where he had been born, where he’d lived his entire life. I remember it was spare, clean, dimly lit by a pair of kerosene lamps. There were two mattresses on opposite sides of the room, a worn Herati rug with frayed edges in between, a three-legged stool, and a wooden table in the corner where Hassan did his drawings. The walls stood bare, save for a single tapestry with sewn-in beads forming the words Allah-u-akbar. Baba had bought it for Ali on one of his trips to Mashad.

It was in that small shack that Hassan’s mother, Sanaubar, gave birth to him one cold winter day in 1964. While my mother hemorrhaged to death during childbirth, Hassan lost his less than a week after he was born. Lost her to a fate most Afghans considered far worse than death: She ran off with a clan of traveling singers and dancers.

Hassan never talked about his mother, as if she’d never existed. I always wondered if he dreamed about her, about what she looked like, where she was. I wondered if he longed to meet her. Did he ache for her, the way I ached for the mother I had never met? One day, we were walking from my father’s house to Cinema Zainab for a new Iranian movie, taking the shortcut through the military barracks near Istiqlal Middle School—Baba had forbidden us to take that shortcut, but he was in Pakistan with Rahim Khan at the time. We hopped the fence that surrounded the barracks, skipped over a little creek, and broke into the open dirt field where old, abandoned tanks collected dust. A group of soldiers huddled in the shade of one of those tanks, smoking cigarettes and playing cards. One of them saw us, elbowed the guy next to him, and called Hassan.

“Hey, you!” he said. “I know you.”

We had never seen him before. He was a squatty man with a shaved head and black stubble on his face. The way he grinned at us, leered, scared me. “Just keep walking,” I muttered to Hassan.

“You! The Hazara! Look at me when I’m talking to you!” the soldier barked. He handed his cigarette to the guy next to him, made a circle with the thumb and index finger of one hand. Poked the middle finger of his other hand through the circle. Poked it in and out. In and out. “I knew your mother, did you know that? I knew her real good. I took her from behind by that creek over there.”

The soldiers laughed. One of them made a squealing sound. I told Hassan to keep walking, keep walking.

“What a tight little sugary cunt she had!” the soldier was saying, shaking hands with the others, grinning. Later, in the dark, after the movie had started, I heard Hassan next to me, croaking. Tears were sliding down his cheeks. I reached across my seat, slung my arm around him, pulled him close. He rested his head on my shoulder. “He took you for someone else,” I whispered. “He took you for someone else.”

I’m told no one was really surprised when Sanaubar eloped. People had raised their eyebrows when Ali, a man who had memorized the Koran, married Sanaubar, a woman nineteen years younger, a beautiful but notoriously unscrupulous woman who lived up to her dishonorable reputation. Like Ali, she was a Shi’a Muslim and an ethnic Hazara. She was also his first cousin and therefore a natural choice for a spouse. But beyond those similarities, Ali and Sanaubar had little in common, least of all their respective appearances. While Sanaubar’s brilliant green eyes and impish face had, rumor has it, tempted countless men into sin, Ali had a congenital paralysis of his lower facial muscles, a condition that rendered him unable to smile and left him perpetually grim-faced. It was an odd thing to see the stone-faced Ali happy, or sad, because only his slanted brown eyes glinted with a smile or welled with sorrow. People say that eyes are windows to the soul. Never was that more true than with Ali, who could only reveal himself through his eyes.

I have heard that Sanaubar’s suggestive stride and oscillating hips sent men to reveries of infidelity. But polio had left Ali with a twisted, atrophied right leg that was sallow skin over bone with little in between except a paper-thin layer of muscle. I remember one day, when I was eight, Ali was taking me to the bazaar to buy some naan. I was walking behind him, humming, trying to imitate his walk. I watched him swing his scraggy leg in a sweeping arc, watched his whole body tilt impossibly to the right every time he planted that foot. It seemed a minor miracle he didn’t tip over with each step. When I tried it, I almost fell into the gutter. That got me giggling. Ali turned around, caught me aping him. He didn’t say anything. Not then, not ever. He just kept walking.

Ali’s face and his walk frightened some of the younger children in the neighborhood. But the real trouble was with the older kids. They chased him on the street, and mocked him when he hobbled by. Some had taken to calling him Babalu, or Boogeyman. “Hey, Babalu, who did you eat today?” they barked to a chorus of laughter. “Who did you eat, you flat-nosed Babalu?”

They called him “flat-nosed” because of Ali and Hassan’s characteristic Hazara Mongoloid features. For years, that was all I knew about the Hazaras, that they were Mogul descendants, and that they looked a little like Chinese people. School textbooks barely mentioned them and referred to their ancestry only in passing. Then one day, I was in Baba’s study, looking through his stuff, when I found one of my mother’s old history books. It was written by an Iranian named Khorami. I blew the dust off it, sneaked it into bed with me that night, and was stunned to find an entire chapter on Hazara history. An entire chapter dedicated to Hassan’s people! In it, I read that my people, the Pashtuns, had persecuted and oppressed the Hazaras. It said the Hazaras had tried to rise against the Pashtuns in the nineteenth century, but the Pashtuns had “quelled them with unspeakable violence.” The book said that my people had killed the Hazaras, driven them from their lands, burned their homes, and sold their women. The book said part of the reason Pashtuns had oppressed the Hazaras was that Pashtuns were Sunni Muslims, while Hazaras were Shi’a. The book said a lot of things I didn’t know, things my teachers hadn’t mentioned. Things Baba hadn’t mentioned either. It also said some things I did know, like that people called Hazaras mice-eating, flat-nosed, load-carrying donkeys. I had heard some of the kids in the neighborhood yell those names to Hassan.

The following week, after class, I showed the book to my teacher and pointed to the chapter on the Hazaras. He skimmed through a couple of pages, snickered, handed the book back. “That’s the one thing Shi’a people do well,” he said, picking up his papers, “passing themselves as martyrs.” He wrinkled his nose when he said the word Shi’a, like it was some kind of disease.

But despite sharing ethnic heritage and family blood, Sanaubar joined the neighborhood kids in taunting Ali. I have heard that she made no secret of her disdain for his appearance.

“This is a husband?” she would sneer. “I have seen old donkeys better suited to be a husband.”

In the end, most people suspected the marriage had been an arrangement of sorts between Ali and his uncle, Sanaubar’s father. They said Ali had married his cousin to help restore some honor to his uncle’s blemished name, even though Ali, who had been orphaned at the age of five, had no worldly possessions or inheritance to speak of.

Ali never retaliated against any of his tormentors, I suppose partly because he could never catch them with that twisted leg dragging behind him. But mostly because Ali was immune to the insults of his assailants; he had found his joy, his antidote, the moment Sanaubar had given birth to Hassan. It had been a simple enough affair. No obstetricians, no anesthesiologists, no fancy monitoring devices. Just Sanaubar lying on a stained, naked mattress with Ali and a midwife helping her. She hadn’t needed much help at all, because, even in birth, Hassan was true to his nature: He was incapable of hurting anyone. A few grunts, a couple of pushes, and out came Hassan. Out he came smiling.

As confided to a neighbor’s servant by the garrulous midwife, who had then in turn told anyone who would listen, Sanaubar had taken one glance at the baby in Ali’s arms, seen the cleft lip, and barked a bitter laughter.

“There,” she had said. “Now you have your own idiot child to do all your smiling for you!” She had refused to even hold Hassan, and just five days later, she was gone.

Baba hired the same nursing woman who had fed me to nurse Hassan. Ali told us she was a blue-eyed Hazara woman from Bamiyan, the city of the giant Buddha statues. “What a sweet singing voice she had,” he used to say to us.

What did she sing, Hassan and I always asked, though we already knew—Ali had told us countless times. We just wanted to hear Ali sing.

He’d clear his throat and begin:

On a high mountain I stood,

And cried the name of Ali, Lion of God.

O Ali, Lion of God, King of Men,

Bring joy to our sorrowful hearts.

Then he would remind us that there was a brotherhood between people who had fed from the same breast, a kinship that not even time could break.

Hassan and I fed from the same breasts. We took our first steps on the same lawn in the same yard. And, under the same roof, we spoke our first words.

Mine was Baba.

His was Amir. My name.

Looking back on it now, I think the foundation for what happened in the winter of 1975—and all that followed—was already laid in those first words.

THREE

Lore has it my father once wrestled a black bear in Baluchistan with his bare hands. If the story had been about anyone else, it would have been dismissed as laaf, that Afghan tendency to exaggerate—sadly, almost a national affliction; if someone bragged that his son was a doctor, chances were the kid had once passed a biology test in high school. But no one ever doubted the veracity of any story about Baba. And if they did, well, Baba did have those three parallel scars coursing a jagged path down his back. I have imagined Baba’s wrestling match countless times, even dreamed about it. And in those dreams, I can never tell Baba from the bear.

It was Rahim Khan who first referred to him as what eventually became Baba’s famous nickname, Toophan agha, or “Mr. Hurricane.” It was an apt enough nickname. My father was a force of nature, a towering Pashtun specimen with a thick beard, a wayward crop of curly brown hair as unruly as the man himself, hands that looked capable of uprooting a willow tree, and a black glare that would “drop the devil to his knees begging for mercy,” as Rahim Khan used to say. At parties, when all six-foot-five of him thundered into the room, attention shifted to him like sunflowers turning to the sun.

Baba was impossible to ignore, even in his sleep. I used to bury cotton wisps in my ears, pull the blanket over my head, and still the sounds of Baba’s snoring—so much like a growling truck engine—penetrated the walls. And my room was across the hall from Baba’s bedroom. How my mother ever managed to sleep in the same room as him is a mystery to me. It’s on the long list of things I would have asked my mother if I had ever met her.

In the late 1960s, when I was five or six, Baba decided to build an orphanage. I heard the story through Rahim Khan. He told me Baba had drawn the blueprints himself despite the fact that he’d had no architectural experience at all. Skeptics had urged him to stop his foolishness and hire an architect. Of course, Baba refused, and everyone shook their heads in dismay at his obstinate ways. Then Baba succeeded and everyone shook their heads in awe at his triumphant ways. Baba paid for the construction of the two-story orphanage, just off the main strip of Jadeh Maywand south of the Kabul River, with his own money. Rahim Khan told me Baba had personally funded the entire project, paying for the engineers, electricians, plumbers, and laborers, not to mention the city officials whose “mustaches needed oiling.”

It took three years to build the orphanage. I was eight by then. I remember the day before the orphanage opened, Baba took me to Ghargha Lake, a few miles north of Kabul. He asked me to fetch Hassan too, but I lied and told him Hassan had the runs. I wanted Baba all to myself. And besides, one time at Ghargha Lake, Hassan and I were skimming stones and Hassan made his stone skip eight times. The most I managed was five. Baba was there, watching, and he patted Hassan on the back. Even put his arm around his shoulder.

We sat at a picnic table on the banks of the lake, just Baba and me, eating boiled eggs with kofta sandwiches—meatballs and pickles wrapped in naan. The water was a deep blue and sunlight glittered on its looking glass–clear surface. On Fridays, the lake was bustling with families out for a day in the sun. But it was midweek and there was only Baba and me, us and a couple of longhaired, bearded tourists—“hippies,” I’d heard them called. They were sitting on the dock, feet dangling in the water, fishing poles in hand. I asked Baba why they grew their hair long, but Baba grunted, didn’t answer. He was preparing his speech for the next day, flipping through a havoc of handwritten pages, making notes here and there with a pencil. I bit into my egg and asked Baba if it was true what a boy in school had told me, that if you ate a piece of eggshell, you’d have to pee it out. Baba grunted again.

I took a bite of my sandwich. One of the yellow-haired tourists laughed and slapped the other one on the back. In the distance, across the lake, a truck lumbered around a corner on the hill. Sunlight twinkled in its side-view mirror.

“I think I have saratan,” I said. Cancer. Baba lifted his head from the pages flapping in the breeze. Told me I could get the soda myself, all I had to do was look in the trunk of the car.

Outside the orphanage, the next day, they ran out of chairs. A lot of people had to stand to watch the opening ceremony. It was a windy day, and I sat behind Baba on the little podium just outside the main entrance of the new building. Baba was wearing a green suit and a caracul hat. Midway through the speech, the wind knocked his hat off and everyone laughed. He motioned to me to hold his hat for him and I was glad to, because then everyone would see that he was my father, my Baba. He turned back to the microphone and said he hoped the building was sturdier than his hat, and everyone laughed again. When Baba ended his speech, people stood up and cheered. They clapped for a long time. Afterward, people shook his hand. Some of them tousled my hair and shook my hand too. I was so proud of Baba, of us.

But despite Baba’s successes, people were always doubting him. They told Baba that running a business wasn’t in his blood and he should study law like his father. So Baba proved them all wrong by not only running his own business but becoming one of the richest merchants in Kabul. Baba and Rahim Khan built a wildly successful carpet-exporting business, two pharmacies, and a restaurant.

When people scoffed that Baba would never marry well—after all, he was not of royal blood—he wedded my mother, Sofia Akrami, a highly educated woman universally regarded as one of Kabul’s most respected, beautiful, and virtuous ladies. And not only did she teach classic Farsi literature at the university, she was a descendant of the royal family, a fact that my father playfully rubbed in the skeptics’ faces by referring to her as “my princess.”

With me as the glaring exception, my father molded the world around him to his liking. The problem, of course, was that Baba saw the world in black and white. And he got to decide what was black and what was white. You can’t love a person who lives that way without fearing him too. Maybe even hating him a little.

When I was in fifth grade, we had a mullah who taught us about Islam. His name was Mullah Fatiullah Khan, a short, stubby man with a face full of acne scars and a gruff voice. He lectured us about the virtues of zakat and the duty of hadj; he taught us the intricacies of performing the five daily namaz prayers, and made us memorize verses from the Koran—and though he never translated the words for us, he did stress, sometimes with the help of a stripped willow branch, that we had to pronounce the Arabic words correctly so God would hear us better. He told us one day that Islam considered drinking a terrible sin; those who drank would answer for their sin on the day of Qiyamat, Judgment Day. In those days, drinking was fairly common in Kabul. No one gave you a public lashing for it, but those Afghans who did drink did so in private, out of respect. People bought their scotch as “medicine” in brown paper bags from selected “pharmacies.” They would leave with the bag tucked out of sight, sometimes drawing furtive, disapproving glances from those who knew about the store’s reputation for such transactions.

We were upstairs in Baba’s study, the smoking room, when I told him what Mullah Fatiullah Khan had taught us in class. Baba was pouring himself a whiskey from the bar he had built in the corner of the room. He listened, nodded, took a sip from his drink. Then he lowered himself into the leather sofa, put down his drink, and propped me up on his lap. I felt as if I were sitting on a pair of tree trunks. He took a deep breath and exhaled through his nose, the air hissing through his mustache for what seemed an eternity. I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to hug him or leap from his lap in mortal fear.

“I see you’ve confused what you’re learning in school with actual education,” he said in his thick voice.

“But if what he said is true then does it make you a sinner, Baba?”

“Hmm.” Baba crushed an ice cube between his teeth. “Do you want to know what your father thinks about sin?”

“Yes.”

“Then I’ll tell you,” Baba said, “but first understand this and understand it now, Amir: You’ll never learn anything of value from those bearded idiots.”

“You mean Mullah Fatiullah Khan?”

Baba gestured with his glass. The ice clinked. “I mean all of them. Piss on the beards of all those self-righteous monkeys.”

I began to giggle. The image of Baba pissing on the beard of any monkey, self-righteous or otherwise, was too much.

“They do nothing but thumb their prayer beads and recite a book written in a tongue they don’t even understand.” He took a sip. “God help us all if Afghanistan ever falls into their hands.”

“But Mullah Fatiullah Khan seems nice,” I managed between bursts of tittering.

“So did Genghis Khan,” Baba said. “But enough about that. You asked about sin and I want to tell you. Are you listening?”

“Yes,” I said, pressing my lips together. But a chortle escaped through my nose and made a snorting sound. That got me giggling again.

Baba’s stony eyes bore into mine and, just like that, I wasn’t laughing anymore. “I mean to speak to you man to man. Do you think you can handle that for once?”

“Yes, Baba jan,” I muttered, marveling, not for the first time, at how badly Baba could sting me with so few words. We’d had a fleeting good moment—it wasn’t often Baba talked to me, let alone on his lap—and I’d been a fool to waste it.

“Good,” Baba said, but his eyes wondered. “Now, no matter what the mullah teaches, there is only one sin, only one. And that is theft. Every other sin is a variation of theft. Do you understand that?”

“No, Baba jan,” I said, desperately wishing I did. I didn’t want to disappoint him again.

Baba heaved a sigh of impatience. That stung too, because he was not an impatient man. I remembered all the times he didn’t come home until after dark, all the times I ate dinner alone. I’d ask Ali where Baba was, when he was coming home, though I knew full well he was at the construction site, overlooking this, supervising that. Didn’t that take patience? I already hated all the kids he was building the orphanage for; sometimes I wished they’d all died along with their parents.

“When you kill a man, you steal a life,” Baba said. “You steal his wife’s right to a husband, rob his children of a father. When you tell a lie, you steal someone’s right to the truth. When you cheat, you steal the right to fairness. Do you see?”

I did. When Baba was six, a thief walked into my grandfather’s house in the middle of the night. My grandfather, a respected judge, confronted him, but the thief stabbed him in the throat, killing him instantly—and robbing Baba of a father. The townspeople caught the killer just before noon the next day; he turned out to be a wanderer from the Kunduz region. They hanged him from the branch of an oak tree with still two hours to go before afternoon prayer. It was Rahim Khan, not Baba, who had told me that story. I was always learning things about Baba from other people.

“There is no act more wretched than stealing, Amir,” Baba said. “A man who takes what’s not his to take, be it a life or a loaf of naan…I spit on such a man. And if I ever cross paths with him, God help him. Do you understand?”

I found the idea of Baba clobbering a thief both exhilarating and terribly frightening. “Yes, Baba.”

“If there’s a God out there, then I would hope he has more important things to attend to than my drinking scotch or eating pork. Now, hop down. All this talk about sin has made me thirsty again.”

I watched him fill his glass at the bar and wondered how much time would pass before we talked again the way we just had. Because the truth of it was, I always felt like Baba hated me a little. And why not? After all, I had killed his beloved wife, his beautiful princess, hadn’t I? The least I could have done was to have had the decency to have turned out a little more like him. But I hadn’t turned out like him. Not at all.

IN SCHOOL, we used to play a game called Sherjangi, or “Battle of the Poems.” The Farsi teacher moderated it and it went something like this: You recited a verse from a poem and your opponent had sixty seconds to reply with a verse that began with the same letter that ended yours. Everyone in my class wanted me on their team, because by the time I was eleven, I could recite dozens of verses from Khayyám, Hãfez, or Rumi’s famous Masnawi. One time, I took on the whole class and won. I told Baba about it later that night, but he just nodded, muttered, “Good.”

That was how I escaped my father’s aloofness, in my dead mother’s books. That and Hassan, of course. I read everything, Rumi, Hãfez, Saadi, Victor Hugo, Jules Verne, Mark Twain, Ian Fleming. When I had finished my mother’s books—not the boring history ones, I was never much into those, but the novels, the epics—I started spending my allowance on books. I bought one a week from the bookstore near Cinema Park, and stored them in cardboard boxes when I ran out of shelf room.

Of course, marrying a poet was one thing, but fathering a son who preferred burying his face in poetry books to hunting…well, that wasn’t how Baba had envisioned it, I suppose. Real men didn’t read poetry—and God forbid they should ever write it! Real men—real boys—played soccer just as Baba had when he had been young. Now that was something to be passionate about. In 1970, Baba took a break from the construction of the orphanage and flew to Tehran for a month to watch the World Cup games on television, since at the time Afghanistan didn’t have TVs yet. He signed me up for soccer teams to stir the same passion in me. But I was pathetic, a blundering liability to my own team, always in the way of an opportune pass or unwittingly blocking an open lane. I shambled about the field on scraggy legs, squalled for passes that never came my way. And the harder I tried, waving my arms over my head frantically and screeching, “I’m open! I’m open!” the more I went ignored. But Baba wouldn’t give up. When it became abundantly clear that I hadn’t inherited a shred of his athletic talents, he settled for trying to turn me into a passionate spectator. Certainly I could manage that, couldn’t I? I faked interest for as long as possible. I cheered with him when Kabul’s team scored against Kandahar and yelped insults at the referee when he called a penalty against our team. But Baba sensed my lack of genuine interest and resigned himself to the bleak fact that his son was never going to either play or watch soccer.

I remember one time Baba took me to the yearly Buzkashi tournament that took place on the first day of spring, New Year’s Day. Buzkashi was, and still is, Afghanistan’s national passion. A chapandaz, a highly skilled horseman usually patronized by rich aficionados, has to snatch a goat or cattle carcass from the midst of a melee, carry that carcass with him around the stadium at full gallop, and drop it in a scoring circle while a team of other chapandaz chases him and does everything in its power—kick, claw, whip, punch—to snatch the carcass from him. That day, the crowd roared with excitement as the horsemen on the field bellowed their battle cries and jostled for the carcass in a cloud of dust. The earth trembled with the clatter of hooves. We watched from the upper bleachers as riders pounded past us at full gallop, yipping and yelling, foam flying from their horses’ mouths.

At one point Baba pointed to someone. “Amir, do you see that man sitting up there with those other men around him?”

I did.

“That’s Henry Kissinger.”

“Oh,” I said. I didn’t know who Henry Kissinger was, and I might have asked. But at the moment, I watched with horror as one of the chapandaz fell off his saddle and was trampled under a score of hooves. His body was tossed and hurled in the stampede like a rag doll, finally rolling to a stop when the melee moved on. He twitched once and lay motionless, his legs bent at unnatural angles, a pool of his blood soaking through the sand.

I began to cry.

I cried all the way back home. I remember how Baba’s hands clenched around the steering wheel. Clenched and unclenched. Mostly, I will never forget Baba’s valiant efforts to conceal the disgusted look on his face as he drove in silence.

Later that night, I was passing by my father’s study when I overheard him speaking to Rahim Khan. I pressed my ear to the closed door.

“—grateful that he’s healthy,” Rahim Khan was saying.

“I know, I know. But he’s always buried in those books or shuffling around the house like he’s lost in some dream.”

“And?”

“I wasn’t like that.” Baba sounded frustrated, almost angry.

Rahim Khan laughed. “Children aren’t coloring books. You don’t get to fill them with your favorite colors.”

“I’m telling you,” Baba said, “I wasn’t like that at all, and neither were any of the kids I grew up with.”

“You know, sometimes you are the most self-centered man I know,” Rahim Khan said. He was the only person I knew who could get away with saying something like that to Baba.

“It has nothing to do with that.”

“Nay?”

“Nay.”

“Then what?”

I heard the leather of Baba’s seat creaking as he shifted on it. I closed my eyes, pressed my ear even harder against the door, wanting to hear, not wanting to hear. “Sometimes I look out this window and I see him playing on the street with the neighborhood boys. I see how they push him around, take his toys from him, give him a shove here, a whack there. And, you know, he never fights back. Never. He just…drops his head and…”

“So he’s not violent,” Rahim Khan said.

“That’s not what I mean, Rahim, and you know it,” Baba shot back. “There is something missing in that boy.”

“Yes, a mean streak.”

“Self-defense has nothing to do with meanness. You know what always happens when the neighborhood boys tease him? Hassan steps in and fends them off. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. And when they come home, I say to him, ‘How did Hassan get that scrape on his face?’ And he says, ‘He fell down.’ I’m telling you, Rahim, there is something missing in that boy.”

“You just need to let him find his way,” Rahim Khan said.

“And where is he headed?” Baba said. “A boy who won’t stand up for himself becomes a man who can’t stand up to anything.”

“As usual you’re oversimplifying.”

“I don’t think so.”

“You’re angry because you’re afraid he’ll never take over the business for you.”

“Now who’s oversimplifying?” Baba said. “Look, I know there’s a fondness between you and him and I’m happy about that. Envious, but happy. I mean that. He needs someone who…understands him, because God knows I don’t. But something about Amir troubles me in a way that I can’t express. It’s like…” I could see him searching, reaching for the right words. He lowered his voice, but I heard him anyway. “If I hadn’t seen the doctor pull him out of my wife with my own eyes, I’d never believe he’s my son.”

THE NEXT MORNING, as he was preparing my breakfast, Hassan asked if something was bothering me. I snapped at him, told him to mind his own business.

Rahim Khan had been wrong about the mean streak thing.

FOUR

In 1933, the year Baba was born and the year Zahir Shah began his forty-year reign of Afghanistan, two brothers, young men from a wealthy and reputable family in Kabul, got behind the wheel of their father’s Ford roadster. High on hashish and mast on French wine, they struck and killed a Hazara husband and wife on the road to Paghman. The police brought the somewhat contrite young men and the dead couple’s five-year-old orphan boy before my grandfather, who was a highly regarded judge and a man of impeccable reputation. After hearing the brothers’ account and their father’s plea for mercy, my grandfather ordered the two young men to go to Kandahar at once and enlist in the army for one year—this despite the fact that their family had somehow managed to obtain them exemptions from the draft. Their father argued, but not too vehemently, and in the end, everyone agreed that the punishment had been perhaps harsh but fair. As for the orphan, my grandfather adopted him into his own household, and told the other servants to tutor him, but to be kind to him. That boy was Ali.

Ali and Baba grew up together as childhood playmates—at least until polio crippled Ali’s leg—just like Hassan and I grew up a generation later. Baba was always telling us about the mischief he and Ali used to cause, and Ali would shake his head and say, “But, Agha sahib, tell them who was the architect of the mischief and who the poor laborer?” Baba would laugh and throw his arm around Ali.

But in none of his stories did Baba ever refer to Ali as his friend.

The curious thing was, I never thought of Hassan and me as friends either. Not in the usual sense, anyhow. Never mind that we taught each other to ride a bicycle with no hands, or to build a fully functional homemade camera out of a cardboard box. Never mind that we spent entire winters flying kites, running kites. Never mind that to me, the face of Afghanistan is that of a boy with a thin-boned frame, a shaved head, and low-set ears, a boy with a Chinese doll face perpetually lit by a harelipped smile.

Never mind any of those things. Because history isn’t easy to overcome. Neither is religion. In the end, I was a Pashtun and he was a Hazara, I was Sunni and he was Shi’a, and nothing was ever going to change that. Nothing.

But we were kids who had learned to crawl together, and no history, ethnicity, society, or religion was going to change that either. I spent most of the first twelve years of my life playing with Hassan. Sometimes, my entire childhood seems like one long lazy summer day with Hassan, chasing each other between tangles of trees in my father’s yard, playing hide-and-seek, cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians, insect torture—with our crowning achievement undeniably the time we plucked the stinger off a bee and tied a string around the poor thing to yank it back every time it took flight.

We chased the Kochi, the nomads who passed through Kabul on their way to the mountains of the north. We would hear their caravans approaching our neighborhood, the mewling of their sheep, the baaing of their goats, the jingle of bells around their camels’ necks. We’d run outside to watch the caravan plod through our street, men with dusty, weather-beaten faces and women dressed in long, colorful shawls, beads, and silver bracelets around their wrists and ankles. We hurled pebbles at their goats. We squirted water on their mules. I’d make Hassan sit on the Wall of Ailing Corn and fire pebbles with his slingshot at the camels’ rears.

We saw our first Western together, Rio Bravo with John Wayne, at the Cinema Park, across the street from my favorite bookstore. I remember begging Baba to take us to Iran so we could meet John Wayne. Baba burst out in gales of his deep-throated laughter—a sound not unlike a truck engine revving up—and, when he could talk again, explained to us the concept of voice dubbing. Hassan and I were stunned. Dazed. John Wayne didn’t really speak Farsi and he wasn’t Iranian! He was American, just like the friendly, longhaired men and women we always saw hanging around in Kabul, dressed in their tattered, brightly colored shirts. We saw Rio Bravo three times, but we saw our favorite Western, The Magnificent Seven, thirteen times. With each viewing, we cried at the end when the Mexican kids buried Charles Bronson—who, as it turned out, wasn’t Iranian either.

We took strolls in the musty-smelling bazaars of the Shar-e-Nau section of Kabul, or the new city, west of the Wazir Akbar Khan district. We talked about whatever film we had just seen and walked amid the bustling crowds of bazarris. We snaked our way among the merchants and the beggars, wandered through narrow alleys cramped with rows of tiny, tightly packed stalls. Baba gave us each a weekly allowance of ten Afghanis and we spent it on warm Coca-Cola and rosewater ice cream topped with crushed pistachios.

During the school year, we had a daily routine. By the time I dragged myself out of bed and lumbered to the bathroom, Hassan had already washed up, prayed the morning namaz with Ali, and prepared my breakfast: hot black tea with three sugar cubes and a slice of toasted naan topped with my favorite sour cherry marmalade, all neatly placed on the dining table. While I ate and complained about homework, Hassan made my bed, polished my shoes, ironed my outfit for the day, packed my books and pencils. I’d hear him singing to himself in the foyer as he ironed, singing old Hazara songs in his nasal voice. Then, Baba and I drove off in his black Ford Mustang—a car that drew envious looks everywhere because it was the same car Steve McQueen had driven in Bullitt, a film that played in one theater for six months. Hassan stayed home and helped Ali with the day’s chores: hand-washing dirty clothes and hanging them to dry in the yard, sweeping the floors, buying fresh naan from the bazaar, marinating meat for dinner, watering the lawn.

After school, Hassan and I met up, grabbed a book, and trotted up a bowl-shaped hill just north of my father’s property in Wazir Akbar Khan. There was an old abandoned cemetery atop the hill with rows of unmarked headstones and tangles of brushwood clogging the aisles. Seasons of rain and snow had turned the iron gate rusty and left the cemetery’s low white stone walls in decay. There was a pomegranate tree near the entrance to the cemetery. One summer day, I used one of Ali’s kitchen knives to carve our names on it: “Amir and Hassan, the sultans of Kabul.” Those words made it formal: the tree was ours. After school, Has-san and I climbed its branches and snatched its bloodred pomegranates. After we’d eaten the fruit and wiped our hands on the grass, I would read to Hassan.

What People are saying about this

Isabel Allende
This is one of those unforgettable stories that stay with you for years. All the great themes of literature and of life are the fabric of this extraordinary novel: love, honor, guilt, fear, redemption... It is so powerful that for a long time everything I read after seemed bland.
From the Publisher

"Soaring Debut." —Boston Globe

"Exquisite. A wonderfully conjured story that offers a glimpse into an Afghanistan most Americans have never seen, and depicts a side of humanity rarely revealed." —The Philadelphia Inquirer

"A beautiful novel. Ranks among the best-written and most provocative stories of the year so far. Hosseini is an exhilaratingly original writer with a gift for irony and a gentle, perspective heart." —The Denver Post

“A moving portrait of modern Afghanistan, from its pre-Russian-invasion glory days through the terrible reign of the Taliban."—Entertainment Weekly

Diane Sawyer
An astonishing, powerful book.

Meet the Author

Khaled Hosseini was born in Kabul, Afghanistan, and moved to the United States in 1980. He is the author of the New York Times bestsellers The Kite Runner, A Thousand Splendid Suns, and And the Mountains Echoed. He is A U.S. Goodwill Envoy to the United Nations Refugee Agency, and the founder of The Khaled Hosseini Foundation, a nonprofit that provides humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Sunnyvale, California
Date of Birth:
March 4, 1965
Place of Birth:
Kabul, Afghanistan
Education:
B.S. in biology, Santa Clara University, 1988; M.D., UC San Diego School of Medicine, 1993
Website:
http://www.khaledhosseini.com

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

The Kite Runner 4.6 out of 5 based on 7 ratings. 2295 reviews.
songcatchers More than 1 year ago
The Kite Runner takes place in both Afghanistan and California. It's told from the perspective of Amir, first as a little boy and later on as a man. Amir grows up a privileged boy in Afghanistan. His best friend is Hassan, the son of the family servant. Amir is Pashtun, Hassan is Hazara. Amir is Sunni, Hassan is Shi'a. Their differences don't change the fact that these boys were breastfed together, learned to crawl together and are basically inseparable. Then everything changes. Amir witnesses a horror done to Hassan and cannot forgive himself for not stepping in to help him and to do what is right. In 1975 Afghanistan is in turmoil and Amir, then 12 years old, and his father move to San Francisco. Amir grows up feeling guilt and self-hatred over the issue with Hassan and the subsequent results. Then one day, twenty five years after Amir has left Afghanistan, he receives a phone call summoning him back to the place he had hoped to forget. The caller tells Amir "there is a way to be good again."

The Kite Runner has for it's hero a very flawed human being.....but that's what makes him so believable. Amir the boy does a very cowardly, dastardly deed but Amir the man stands up to the Taliban and even more importantly, he stands up for what is right. This book has forgiveness, redemption and courage for it's main themes. We see how strong the ties of friendship and loyalty can become through the eyes of Amir and a broken little Afghan boy. The setting in Kabul and the culture of the Afghan people make for an interesting backdrop to an unforgettable novel.
Debbie-J-1970 More than 1 year ago
The story is tragic and heart rending. At some points I really disliked the main character, but I could relate with his frustrations and guilt. He redeemed himself with his bravery in the end. The characters are deep, and the interactions between them are as natural as if the author had witnessed them himself (or, indeed, experienced them!). There is a little bit of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn in the main character and his hair-lipped friend, respectively. I loved how many plot threads from the main character's childhood came back to him in adulthood, which brought back all the main character's childhood anxieties. I have never known a thing about Afghanistan, except what I hear on the news, but this book brought that beautiful, beleaguered country to life for me in ways I never could have imagined. I was transported to and immersed in a world that is totally beyond the awareness of most westerners. Through Hosseini's magic, I became part of that world and literally felt young Amir's and Hassan's every feeling. A superb novel, both historical and relevant for our times. This is a well written novel that's very culturally and politically aware, and it is certainly worth the time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was given this book about two years ago and it sat on my shelf until now, and I cant believe I didnt read it sooner. I cried, I laughed, and feel in to deep thought throughout this whole book. Its beautiful and you will fall in love with the characters right away. Hassan was my favorite character and you will love him too. I cried so much throughout this book because it evoked such feeling inside of me, do yourself a favor and BUY THE BOOK!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I just finsihed reading this book. I have not stopped crying for an hour. It really moved me!!!!!!!! I lived & traveled in Afghanistan & the Middle east & India from 1976 to 78. The Shah was in power, Indira Gandhi also. When I was there Russia was just starting to invade. I went & watched a buscachi tournament in that fatal stadium. The Afghan people were & still are my favorite people in that part of the world. This book gave me so much more insight that I never new about the Afghan people & their culture & customs. Thank you!!! I am horrified & disheartened as an American that we have not done more for these amazing compassionate, generous people & country. They are truly victoms of this so called 'war on terrorism', Thank you Khaled Hosseini for this book, for the gift of your magnificant words. I am humbled!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an amazing novel. I read this book because my cousin recommended it as a good summer read. I did not think that I was going to enjoy it but I was very wrong. This is one of the best novels I have ever read. I have to admit that the beginning seemed slow to me, but after one of its most controversial episodes I was hooked and could not put the book down. This novel was an emotional rollercoaster and surprisingly suspenseful at times. The writing is excellent and allows the reader to get into the mind of the protagonist, Amir, during all of the events he goes through. It is almost as if the reader is feeling the same emotions as Amir. The themes in this novel were very interesting to me. They range from relationships between family members (especially father and son) and loyalty among friends to the horrors war and social problems of the era. This leads me to another aspect that kept me so intrigued with this novel. I learned many new things about the history and culture of Afghanistan and it people. It was shocking to see the problems Afghans faced during the time while Russia had control of the region. In addition it was astounding to see the difference in social class based on the race or different sects of Islam. I knew that Sunni and Shi¿a had problems but I did not know to what extent. It was fascinating to learn so much history and culture but still have a beautiful and inspiring story. The relationships between the characters in this novel are amazing. It is filled with so much emotion that I could not help but to feel for all the characters. Each character has there own story and importance which keeps the reader entertained. When these stories come together is when it really gets appealing. I have to say that my favorite parts were the scenes that show the conditions of war during the Taliban control. Many of the events are filled with suspense during these parts I could not stop reading. This book really is a page-turner and I recommended it highly to all readers in high school and up. One of the most important and influential things I learned about in this book was the power of loyalty and how if someone feels like they have broken that loyalty they will do anything to get it back.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The author weaves a stunning portrait of a country torn by war, depicted as once beautiful. His language draws the reader into the novel like a true artist into a painting full of color and truth."The Kite Runner" was one of the most amazing books I have ever read. Every page was a new adventure for Hassan or a new discovery for Amir. The title of my review is the central quote of the book.It represents all Hassan's unwavering loyalty to Amir, which is perhaps the most dangerous part of the story. The central themes are some of the most important topics of our time. Themes debated include rich vs. poor/social barriers, right and wrong, life choices, protecting those you love or yourself, admitting wrongdoing, and helping others even though it hurts yourself.I would recommend this book to anyone who has a little time and a lot of appreciation for good literature.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love this book! Could not put it down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was an excellent and fast read. I wished I had read it sooner. This book kept me intrigued and interested. Most important it kept me out of the fridge and my TV stayed off. Who needs cable vision when we have Khaled Hosseini to entertain us. Thank you Dr. Hosseini.
Native_Book-Nerd More than 1 year ago
If you enjoyed A Thousand Splendid Suns, then you will love this one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Kite Runner is such touching book that can rarely be found in literature
Ms_Marisa2013 More than 1 year ago
This was an absolutely amazing book. One of the best books I've ever read. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book greatly helps understand the conflict in Afghanistan.
SD_Weston More than 1 year ago
The Kite Runner left me at a loss for words. The story is great. It's totally worth reading. But this is probably the most depressing book I've ever read. Not depressing in a bad way, the story is just emotionally difficult. It is a beautiful and gritty story of a boy's life and the guilt he must overcome. The story has some great plot turns (I even said "holy crap" out loud when I got to them), and is superbly written. Hosseini has written quite a masterpiece-impressive for this being his first novel. This story is filled with horrible things, although not entirely graphic. Hosseini describes horrible acts in such a powerfully impacting manner, but he doesn't resort to gratuitous description to achieve his impact. Hosseini's characters are so deep and well-thought out, that I found myself postulating how these characters lives would have been different had they made different choices. These characters came alive in me, and I suddenly felt as if I was reading a non-fictional account rather than fiction. I wanted their lives to turn our differently, and I wanted Afghanistan to turn out differently. I wish Kabul was spared the Soviets and the Taliban, and that children were still out kite fighting and eating kabob. This is a must read. It is an amazingly deep story that deserves plenty of time of thought and discussion. It is a new classic that should be in our future children's high school literature curriculum. Beautifully written, and a beautifully haunting story that will stay with me for a long time. Concerning the Illustrated Version: The photographs are a nice addition to the book, but the pictures do not directly correlate to the story (as in "The Da Vinci Code" Illustrated Version). There are sections of photographs, much like a non-fiction book where the pictures are centered in a group. I enjoyed looking at the photographs as they did relate to the story, but I would not miss them if I was reading the regular non-illustrated version. However, the Illustrated Version is a little nicer all around, including a nice jacket and embossed pattern on the hard cover, as well as thick, glossy pages. This is a wonderful gift book or addition to your library if you are a book person like me. But if you'd just as soon toss a book once you're done reading it, then I would stick with the regular mass paperback edition.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wonderful book. The author writes with passion and emotion. Explores humanity & choices we make. His characters are real, flawed, human. At times unlikeable. But honest. I could not put it down
sjbfoxmimi1 More than 1 year ago
This is one of the most memorable books I have ever read: the writing is lyrical in places, describing the beauty of the Afghanistan and its culture in vividly moving language. It is the beautifully drawn characters, full of nuances and illuminating events which bring the characters to life in a way I'll never forget. Regardless of one's nationality or religious beliefs, this is a book that captures the essence of all that is both good and bad about humanity. I cannot recommend this book highly enough....5 stars does not do it justice.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It took me a little while to get going but once I did the story is so powerful, that I just couldn't put it down. Very good read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wish I could say I couldn't put it down but I had to So moving and gut-wrenching that emotionally I couldn't go on at times A must read for anyone who is concerned with the world around us
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Perhaps one of the best books out there Sad ,heart warming, and enjoyable Excellent story line and characters
IJB More than 1 year ago
Emotionally ripping and gripping at you the entire book, the Kite Runner finds a way to transcend anything that could ever be expected and as a perfect cliche, haunts your for days...months...years....a true must read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Kite Runner By Khaled Hosseini is one of the most well-written books I have read. It has a powerful story with details so realistic it makes you feel there, which most of the time isn’t a very good place. This story about a boy aging into manhood in the most gruesome of places until being able to escape. Afghanistan is painted as one of the worst places to be.  Khaled Hosseini writes about a boy named Amir living in Afghanistan during the change into a democracy then the invasions by the Soviets. Him and his father must escape and do so, but Amir must go back when he is an adult to visit a dying friend and sees what his homeland had become. This book had outstanding visual details and supreme storytelling, along with a haunting plot that makes this book so good. The details show just how bad some things in life can be. The book has many emotional themes that make it hard to push through. The horrible things some human beings can do is conveyed by the author well in The Kite Runner. Some things in the book could be drawn out. It could have been brought along smoother. Most of the other reviews I agree with. The book is widely thought to be well wrote. The Kite Runner was a fantastic book. The story, details and riveting meaning come together to make a great novel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Peering into a time and culture few Westerners get to see, let alone understand. Mr. Hosseini puts us in his mind and vision and takes on a compelling, emotional and insiteful journey as his characters grow and change. Wonderful read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Powerful story of an incredible friendship
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Extremely well written.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had to read this for my summer prodject At first sceptical( this books didnt seem my type of read ) but I finished this book in five days and I wish there was more the author paints an exquisit picture of modern day Afganistan :) Read it-love it-want more of it
JessWhite More than 1 year ago
The Kite Runner is a beautifully written, enthralling read! The main character's inner turmoil is refreshingly honest. He battles with decisions driven by love, jealousy, guilt, and a sense of duty. This story of redemption forces the reader to consider the balance between self-preservation and loyalty.