Oh, what a book!
The story is starts in the 1970s in Afghanistan and tells the story through the eyes of Amir, the privileged and only son of a rich, widowed, philanthropic landlord. The main crux of the book is Amir's friendship with his servant's son, the devoted and more talented Hassan and his always-under-the-burden-of-expectations relationship with his own Baba. And neither relationship can escape the political upheavals in Afghanistan- first the invasion by Russians and then by the Taliban.
The book is an absolute emotional roller-coaster and one of the best books I have read lately. Hosseni is utterly compelling in his first book (hard to believe considering how well written the book is). The personal relationships between Amir, his Baba and Hassan are beautifully depicted as well and manage to tug at you heart time and again. Interestingly, there are no female leads in the movie and the thankfully, Hosseni does not use the 'love-for-women-changed-the-story' idea (I am tired of how many times poor women are blamed for making or breaking stories).
One of the things that struck me when I read the book was about an unfortunate incident Amir witnesses but doesn't do anything about. I wont give the story away- read for yourself what the incident is but it did leave me thinking for a while. It is interesting how your choice of not doing anything, being mute witnesses to a crime haunt your conscience more than committing the crime itself. Not all of us have the courage to stand up for someone in need and this is the price we pay for it- having a guilty conscience that eats on us for the rest of our life.
Hosseni also manages to present the old-day Afghanistan in a new humane light- one of happiness and peace. It is a shame to read about how power hungry politicians have reduced this once beautiful country to its present-day state of chaos, instability and unhappiness. Mind you, the book doesn't even talk about the plight of Afghan women- I read an article in the Economist about child brides, teen pregnancies and about 80% illiteracy in Afghan women. I still remember the picture of a 11 year old child bride seeing her would-be, well in his 40s husband for the first time on their wedding day (shudder!).
Coming back to the book, this one goes on my 'must read' list. Read it for its mature content, beautiful portrayal of human relationships, Afghanistan and for the emotion than runs throughout the book- hope!