Saturday, August 18, 2007

Jumping on the Bandwagon

I am not a bandwagon reader. Last summer I read The Red Tent and the Secret Life of Bees. Everyone was talking about them. . . . ten years ago.

Well, The Kite Runner is still on the bestseller list at least. I'm not sure why I resisted reading this. I think that I thought it might be too political, or too sad, or just not my cup of tea. I would not be exaggerating to say that this is one of the best books that I've read. Khaled Hosseini paints a picture of a boyhood in a pre-Taliban Afghanistan. In spite of relative safely, those who lived there were deeply affected by the systems of caste, religion and race. An equally telling picture comes to life as the family movies to safety in America in the 1980's. The insight into Middle Eastern culture on this side of the continent was equally enlightening.

There are political elements of course--a story set in these places in these times would not ring true if there were not. But this is not a story of politics. It is a beautifully written account of one man's hopes and dreams along with the bitterness of regret.

Kabul had become a city of ghosts for me. America was different. American was a river, roaring along, unmindful of the past. I could wade into this river, let my sins drown to the bottom, let the waters carry me someplace far. Someplace with no ghosts, no memories, and no sins.

If for nothing else, for that, I embraced America.

This is a drama of human suspense. The obstacles that continue to appear in the life of Amir and the prose which introduces them draw the reader along at a fast past. This author has a unique understand of what makes people tick, and a way with words that allows him to express it in a way that is beautiful, but also functional to the plot.

I am not generally a hardback book buyer, because I'm cheap and because of the general lack of desire to jump on the bandwagon, and because a trade paperback is actually my favorite style of book, but I'm fairly certain that I am going to purchase and read Khaled Hosseini's second novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns, soon. I have no doubt that someone who writes like this about a woman can effectively create the women protagonists who drive that novel:

Lying awake in bed that night, I thought of Soraya Taheri's sickle-shaped birthmark, her gently hooked nose, and the way her luminous eyes had fleetingly held mine. My heart stuttered at the thought of her.

This review is linked to Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books, and I read it as part of my Saturday Review of Books Challenge as well as the Armchair Traveler Reading Challenge.

I rate this novel a mild R, because of a handful of strong obscenities, along with a few scenes of realistic, non-gratuitous violence.

13 comments:

Framed said...

Great review. I listened to "Splendid Suns" on CD and felt I would have liked it better if I had read it. I have heard from some that "Kite Runner" is better, so I am looking forward to reading it.

Shauna said...

I've been meaning to read both of these books.

Noodle said...

Did you find it difficult to read the first portion of the book, the "beginning of the story"? I had to struggle to get through to current day.

That said, I absolutely LOVED the book. It was on my mind for days after I finished, and that rarely happens.

Sarah said...

I, too, just read The Kite Runner recently. Somehow I missed it! What an astounding book. A Thousand Splendid Suns is also phenomenal, although I did think his first was better. Still, it does not disappoint AT ALL as some second novels do.
SmallWorld

Dianne said...

I loved this book also. Read this along with My Sister's Keeper on vacation and both were awesome. I agree - this may be one of the best books I've read in years. I appreciated the peek into the culture of Afghanistan especially. Oh and I'm not a bandwagon reader either!!

Beck said...

The Kite Runner has been on my to-read list for AGES! Glad to hear you liked it.

Katrina said...

Sounds good. You know I avoid popular "literary best-sellers," because I always fear they'll be too depressing or that they'll focus all on the prose and lack a plot. Glad to know that this one combines prose and plot to make a can't-put-down story.

Heather said...

Oh, I loved that book. I haven't read the 100 suns, although I heard it isn't as great. Of course, following up with something so wonderful must be difficult.

At A Hen's Pace said...

Great choice for the Armchair Traveler--didn't it give a great "snapshot" of another culture? Deep as well as wide. I loved it.

Jeanne

Mercy's Maid said...

This is one of my favorite books of all time. I just finished listening to One Thousand Splendid Suns on audio book and wrote a review of it yesterday. It's great too.

Sarah said...

I read The Kite Runner this summer and am now smack dab in the middle of A Thousand Splendid Suns! He is certainly a profound writer. I'm a big fan.

Jen Rouse said...

I enjoyed The Kite Runner, and it stuck with me--but violence in the story--the sin that he wants to spend the rest of the book atoning for (anyone who's read it knows what I'm talking about) was hard for me to take. I agree that it was realistic, not too graphic and non-gratuitous, but it was still hard for me read about. For that reason, I've had a difficult time recommending it to others, even though I enjoyed it myself.

I have a similar feeling about another wonderful book I just finished-- Pulitzer Prize winner "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy. It's profound, and in the end it's about love, faith and hope; but it is perhaps the bleakest, starkest, saddest book I've ever read and thus I wouldn't recommend it to anyone unless you are willing to deal with the darker side of life. If you are, then definitely check it out.

Kelly said...

I always appreciate your reviews--especially as I am trying to make my booklist for 2008. I had been hesitant to "jump on the bandwagon" here, too. Thanks for the input!