Tuesday, February 26, 2008

For you, a thousand times over...

Last Thursday night I decided to grab one of my still unread books to (finally) read until I fall asleep. I chose Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini thinking that it would be a tedious read and is therefore the right candidate to immediately put me into sleep.

It was about past 1 am and about one thirds through the novel that I decided to put the book down. Not because I was sleepy or bored, but because I was sobbing like crazy.

This is probably my biggest understatement of the year, but the book moved me. You know how it is in movies when you know that you’re about to see a dramatic scene because of the background music or through other elements in the movie? And how you can also feel the same thing while reading a book? Like a certain sentence or words act as your signal that your emotions are about to be tugged at? This time I didn’t even have a cue. I was reading this chapter and suddenly the tears came unbidden. I bypassed the welling up of tears, the choking feeling in my throat and went straight to sobbing my heart out. That’s the state I was in when I realized I have a special book in my hand.

It is a story of a man’s action and its consequences, told against the backdrop of Afghanistan’s tumultuous history. It’s about a boy and his friend and their complicated relationship – complicated because the protagonist is the master, a Pashtun and a Sunni Muslim while his friend is his servant, a Hazara and a Shi'a Muslim. It is about an unusual friendship and a friend's fierce loyalty that the other so often put into a test. It’s about a boy and his father and his need to make his father proud of him. It’s about a boy and his insecurities and cowardice, and how his own selfishness lead him to betray his friend, and how their society’s religious and political discrimination made the betrayal the easiest choice. It's about a man and the guilt he had to carry through his life, knowing that happiness is the price of his betrayal.

But more importantly, it is a story of redemption. As one of the characters said: “There’s a way to be good again”. But the path to goodness is long, arduous and treacherous.

The ending didn’t disappoint. I was hoping for a happy ending but what I got was even better. The narration was not overbearing or saccharine. The characters are very empathic. I also learned a lot about Afghanistan’s history, religion and culture and the discrimination among Muslims.

It’s a sad story, but it’s not a depressing one so I hope you give it a try. The movie version will also be shown this week so if you don't have time to read the novel, try to catch it in the big screen.

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