“It may be unfair, but what happens in a few days, sometimes even a single day, can change the course of a whole lifetime...”
Agh, a depressing book for sure. Beautifully written and authentic feeling, it also seems to be written for the shock effect of having almost as much tragedy as possible put into the pages. Just when there seems to be redemption and joy soaring my way, something else horrible happened to slap me out of my optimism.
I wasn't sure whether to rate it 3 or 4 stars. On enjoyment level alone, it was definitely soul-wrenching and 3. On merit and writing style, it was inching toward 4. I'll slap up the four star and be done with the speculation.
The protagonist isn't that likable. Khaled Hosseini shows that a poor decision made in a terrified child may need to be excused to a degree in a grieving adult, but this doesn't make it easier to endure as a reader. He did right himself in the end in his way, although it took awhile to get there and showed he did not have the strength of his father nor the easy honor of his friend Hassan. Clearly it just wasn't an ingrained personality trait, a pity that all the people in his life recognized but still loved him in spite of.
The first part of the book was especially beautifully written as it captured that potent magic of friendship and bonding, but it soured quickly when racism and superiority inevitably paved its way in. Hassan was a beautiful character, almost a little too good to be true other than to stand as the martyr of the story, but it was still soul stomping to endure.
Through the reading of this book there's a shroud of despair and sorrow that's impossible to shake, even when the book is done, which is a sign of an effective writer. Hosseini pens the words freely and with progress, so I'll be checking out more of his work but hoping it doesn't stab me in the heart quite the same way.
I know little of the Middle East but this was an eye opener. Really sad stuff here with children, families, cultures. It was interesting to see different ways of life and how they bonded together in America at the market, and I'm happy that Hosseini held this way of life up for the intent to show the solidity of the culture. Despite this, there was a definite break and breaching in it which is one of two main themes of this story. There was racial divide amongst the ranks and also the crushing divisions of different power players - some who embraced the new world and some who existed in it just to survive but not accept.
The other theme is forgiving yourself even if it's not fully possible to be granted pure redemption. The character would be totally unlikable if he didn't seek a relief of guilt and didn't feel that burden throughout this life. It took awhile for the guilt to fully grip him effectively, but at least that emotion shows regret. Despite that, he didn't go out of his way to combat the regret until so late in life. How nice it would have been to have looked up Hassan on his own without the pull of a dying friend pleading with him to do so.
As a few others have said in their reviews, this isn't a book I want to revisit or reread. It's a sad, crushing story about the separation of friends from one who was unable to stand up for someone who stood up for him, and the instability of a culture that will still be shaking at its roots for a long time to come.
"For you, a thousand times over."