I had heard great things about Khaled Hosseini's novel, The Kite Runner, following its publication in 2003. My stepdaughter read it in her sophomore year of high school, and she raved about it, too. So I finally got around to reading it, and I think it is one of the most pertinent novels to be released during the first decade of the 21st century. Perhaps the most revealing review of the novel I have heard came from a friend, who admitted that she gained a greater understanding about life and politics of the area by reading TKR than she had ever learned through other books and media.
Considering America's ongoing military presence in Afghanistan, the novel is still as pertinent today as it was when it was first released. In addition to being one of the first novels to address the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, it is the first known novel to be written in English by an Afghan native. Hosseini's understanding of the culture and politics of Afghanistan is evident, having grown up as the son of an Afghan diplomat. He and his family later moved to San Jose, California, the primary setting for the second half of the novel.
It is a particularly powerful first novel, and its many serious moments--such as the rape of Hassan and the various brutalities at the hands of the Taliban--set it apart from what could otherwise be adolescent fiction. The author's loving descriptions of the Aghan countryside reveal a beauty of the country that is not evident on news reports of the ongoing political struggles there. Hosseini's themes of atonement, brotherhood and loss of innocence are weaved effortlessly through the novel. The characters are particularly vivid, especially that of the larger-than-life father, Baba, who is at first disappointed in his son before finally recognizing his true nature after their relocation to California.
Naturally, after reading TKR, I moved on to Hosseini's second novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns, another unforgettable tale about the lives of two women forced to face the many gender inequities often found in the Muslim world ruled primarily by men.