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Original Essays | September 17, 2014

Merritt Tierce: IMG Has My Husband Read It?



My first novel, Love Me Back, was published on September 16. Writing the book took seven years, and along the way three chapters were published in... Continue »
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The Kite Runner

by

The Kite Runner Cover

 

 

Excerpt

One

December 2001

I became what I am today at the age of twelve, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975. I remember the precise moment, crouching behind a crumbling mud wall, peeking into the alley near the frozen creek. That was a long time ago, but its wrong what they say about the past, Ive learned, about how you can bury it. Because the past claws its way out. Looking back now, I realize I have been peeking into that deserted alley for the last twenty-six years.

One day last summer, my friend Rahim Khan called from Pakistan. He asked me to come see him. Standing in the kitchen with the receiver to my ear, I knew it wasnt just Rahim Khan on the line. It was my past of unatoned sins. After I hung up, I went for a walk along Spreckels Lake on the northern edge of Golden Gate Park. The early-afternoon sun sparkled on the water where dozens of miniature boats sailed, propelled by a crisp breeze. Then I glanced up and saw a pair of kites, red with long blue tails, soaring in the sky. They danced high above the trees on the west end of the park, over the windmills, floating side by side like a pair of eyes looking down on San Francisco, the city I now call home. And suddenly Hassans voice whispered in my head: For you, a thousand times over. Hassan the harelipped kite runner.

I sat on a park bench near a willow tree. I thought about something Rahim Khan said just before he hung up, almost as an afterthought. There is a way to be good again. I looked up at those twin kites. I thought about Hassan. Thought about Baba. Ali. Kabul. I thought of the life I had lived until the winter of 1975 came along and changed everything. And made me what I am today.

Two

When we were children, Hassan and I used to climb the poplar trees in the driveway of my fathers house and annoy our neighbors by reflecting sunlight into their homes with a shard of mirror. We would sit across from each other on a pair of high branches, our naked feet dangling, our trouser pockets filled with dried mulberries and walnuts. We took turns with the mirror as we ate mulberries, pelted each other with them, giggling, laughing. I can still see Hassan up on that tree, sunlight flickering through the leaves on his almost perfectly round face, a face like a Chinese doll chiselled from hardwood: his flat, broad nose and slanting, narrow eyes like bamboo leaves, eyes that looked, depending on the light, gold, green, even sapphire. I can still see his tiny low-set ears and that pointed stub of a chin, a meaty appendage that looked like it was added as a mere afterthought. And the cleft lip, just left of midline, where the Chinese doll makers instrument may have slipped, or perhaps he had simply grown tired and careless.

Sometimes, up in those trees, I talked Hassan into firing walnuts with his slingshot at the neighbors one-eyed German shepherd. Hassan never wanted to, but if I asked, really asked, he wouldnt deny me. Hassan never denied me anything. And he was deadly with his slingshot. Hassans father, Ali, used to catch us and get mad, or as mad as someone as gentle as Ali could ever get. He would wag his finger and wave us down from the tree. He would take the mirror and tell us what his mother had told him, that the devil shone mirrors too, shone them to distract Muslims during prayer. “And he laughs while he does it,” he always added, scowling at his son.

“Yes, Father,” Hassan would mumble, looking down at his feed. But he never told on my. Never told that the mirror, like shooting walnuts at the neighbors dog, was always my idea.

The poplar trees lined the redbrick driveway, which led to a pair of wrought-iron gates. They in turn opened into an extension of the driveway into my fathers estate. The house sat on the left side of the brick path, the backyard at the end of it.

Everyone agreed that my father, my Baba, had built the most beautiful house in the Wazir Akbar Khan district, a new and affluent neighborhood in the northern part of Kabul. Some thought it was the prettiest house in all of Kabul. A broad entryway flanked by rosebushes led to the sprawling house of marble floors and wide windows. Intricate mosaic tiles, handpicked by Baba in Isfahan, covered the floors of the four bathrooms. Gold-stitched tapestries, which Baba had bought in Calcutta, lined the walls; a crystal chandelier hung from the vaulted ceiling.

Upstairs was my bedroom, Babas room, and his study, also known as “the smoking room,” which perpetually smelled of tobacco and cinnamon. Baba and his friends reclined on black leather chairs there after Ali had served dinner. They stuffed their pipes — except Baba always called it “fattening the pipe” — and discussed their favorite three topics: politics, business, soccer. Sometimes I asked Baba if I could sit with them, but Baba would stand in the doorway. “Go on, now,” hed say. “This is grown-ups time. Why dont you go read one of those books of yours?” Hed close the door, leave me to wonder why it was always grown-ups time with him. Id sit by the door, knees drawn into my chest. Sometimes I sat there for an hour, sometimes two, listening to their laughter, their chatter.

The living room downstairs had a curved wall with custom-built cabinets. Inside sat framed family pictures: an old, grainy photo of my grandfather and King Nadir Shah taken in 1931, two years before the kings assassination; they are standing over a dead deer, dressed in knee-high boots, rifles slung over their shoulders. There was a picture of my parents wedding night, Baba dashing in his black suit and my mother a smiling young princess in white. Here was Baba and his best friend and business partner, Rahim Kahn, standing outside our house, neither one smiling — I am a baby in that photograph and Baba is holding me, looking tired and grim. Im in his arms, but its Rahim Khans pinky my fingers are curled around.

The curved wall led into the dining room, at the center of which was a mahogany table that could easily sit thirty guests — and, given my fathers taste for extravagant parties, it did just that almost every week. On the other end of the dining room was a tall marble fireplace, always lit by the orange glow of a fire in the wintertime.

A large sliding glass door opened into a semicircular terrace that overlooked two acres of backyard and rows of cherry trees. Baba and Ali had planted a small vegetable garden along the eastern wall: tomatoes, mint, peppers, and a row of corn that never really took. Hassan and I used to call it “the Wall of Ailing Corn.”

On the south end of the garden, in the shadows of a loquat tree, was the servants home, a modest mud hut where Hassan lived with his father.

It was there, in that little shack, that Hassan was born in the winter of 1964, just one year after my mother died giving birth to me.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 53 comments:

Waney, December 29, 2012 (view all comments by Waney)
I saw this book as one man's journey toward redemption against a background of a troubled heritage. I sometimes recall doing things as a child that now makes me wonder about myself, and while I like to think I've become a better human being, I sometimes shudder at the savage, thoughtless child that was once under this skin. For the personal perspective alone, I think this book is a worthwhile, if sometimes uncomfortable, read. If you let it, it may make you a better person.
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(2 of 4 readers found this comment helpful)
girlymeyers, September 16, 2011 (view all comments by girlymeyers)
This book is one that describes childhood fun and dreams with shame and disloyalty. Then, later of regret and trying to make amends to a long lost friend. It will make you cry, laugh and keep you turning each page. I throughly enjoyed this book and highly recommend it to anyone that enjoys a magnificent read.
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(8 of 14 readers found this comment helpful)
bookgirl94, March 14, 2011 (view all comments by bookgirl94)
This book was amazing. People had told me how good it was and I had put off reading it, but I'm so glad that I read it. It was powerful and wonderfully written.
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(9 of 18 readers found this comment helpful)
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Product Details

ISBN:
9781594480003
Author:
Hosseini, Khaled
Publisher:
Riverhead Books
Subject:
General
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Hardback
Publication Date:
20040431
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
from 12
Language:
English
Pages:
416
Dimensions:
9 x 6 in 1 lb
Age Level:
from 18

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The Kite Runner Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$7.95 In Stock
Product details 416 pages Riverhead Books - English 9781594480003 Reviews:
"Review" by , "Hosseini's book is more than a typical coming-of-age story. Rather it is about personal salvation, betrayal, and redemption."
"Review" by , "Rather than settle for a coming-of-age or travails-of-immigrants story, Hosseini has folded them both into this searing spectacle of hard-won personal salvation. All this, and a rich slice of Afghan culture too: irresistible."
"Review" by , "Brilliant...both as a political chronicle and a deeply personal tale about how childhood choices affect our adult lives."
"Review" by , "A wonderful work.... This is one of those unforgettable stories that stay with you for years. All the great themes of literature and of life are the fabric of this extraordinary novel: love, honor, guilt, fear redemption.... It is so powerful that for a long time everything I read after seemed bland."
"Review" by , "In The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini gives us a vivid and engaging story that reminds us how long his people have been struggling to triumph over the forces of violence — forces that continue to threaten them even today."
"Review" by , "A haunting morality tale."
"Review" by , "His passionate story of betrayal and redemption is framed by Afghanistan's tragic recent past.... Rather than settle for a coming-of-age or travails-of-immigrants story, Hosseini has folded them both into this searing spectacle of hard-won personal salvation. All this, and a rich slice of Afghan culture too: irresistible."
"Review" by , "Like Gone with the Wind, this extraordinary first novel locates the personal struggles of everyday people in the terrible sweep of history."
"Review" by , "To many Western readers, [Afghanistan's] can be an exhausting and bewildering history. But Hosseini extrudes it into an intimate account of family and friendship, betrayal and salvation that requires no atlas or translation to engage and enlighten us."
"Review" by , "A beautiful novel...a song in a new key. Hosseini is an exhilaratingly original writer with a gift for irony and a gentle, perceptive heart...one of the most lyrical, moving and unexpected novels of the year."
"Review" by , "By page seven...I was sold, and hoped only that the book would continue to hold me in the same embrace. And embrace it does — or better said, encompass. Hosseini does tenderness and terror, California dream and Kabul nightmare with equal aplomb."
"Review" by , "[A] passionate story about guilt, honour and forgiveness, enlivened both by its capacity to offer a valuable insider's view into a country much in the news, and by its wisdom about how life is all about the choices we make."
"Synopsis" by , Privileged young narrator Amir comes of age during the last peaceful days of the monarchy in Afghanistan, then must endure revolution, invasion and a country's long struggle to triumph over violent forces.
"Synopsis" by , The New York Times bestseller and international classic loved by millions of readers.

The unforgettable, heartbreaking story of the unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father's servant, The Kite Runner is a beautifully crafted novel set in a country that is in the process of being destroyed. It is about the power of reading, the price of betrayal, and the possibility of redemption; and an exploration of the power of fathers over sons—their love, their sacrifices, their lies.

A sweeping story of family, love, and friendship told against the devastating backdrop of the history of Afghanistan over the last thirty years, The Kite Runner is an unusual and powerful novel that has become a beloved, one-of-a-kind classic.

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