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Amy finished The Kite Runner the other day and immediately called me on my cell phone and said “I just read the best first novel that I’ve read so far this year.” NPR’s Susan Stamberg had a great piece on summer reading and first novels this morning and – as Amy has been working on her first novel – she reads a lot of them. So – when Amy says “this one is the best”, I immediately put it on the top of my reading pile.
Wow! The Kite Runner is stunning. It’s the story of two boys growing up in Kabul. The special relationship between them unfolds throughout the book in unexpected ways. They grow from young boys to adults with the backdrop of the final days of the Afghanistan monarchy (mid 1970s) to the evilness of the Taliban in the late 1990s. As the narrator – Amir – grows up, the culture and beauty of Afghanistan is slowly destroyed. The combination of culture, beauty, tragedy, fear, self loathing, and evilness are intertwined in a way that grabs you and won’t let you go. All the threads of the book magically come together in a powerful 100 page climax that thankfully, leaves you with hope.
I know very little about Afghanistan beyond what I learned (or think I learned) post 9/11. This story gave me a new feel for what Afghanistan used to be like and the level of devastation humans can wreak on each other and a society. The story is magnificently told and the writing is almost flawless for a first novel. I agree with Amy – The Kite Runner is the best first novel I’ve read so far this year.