Both The Kite Runner and this book are absolutely beautiful books. Hosseini paints this lush and vivid picture of the beauty of Afghanistan and then contrasts this image with the violence and brutality of the past several decades there. I normally picture that entire region of the world as arid and empty, the landscape itself hostile and unwelcoming.
Hosseini shows us the beauty of the region, helps us love the area just as his characters love it, so that our hearts break along with theirs when their land becomes unrecognizable to them.
This is an emotionally difficult book. It starts out bleak, and just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse for the characters, they get worse, and worse again. But through all of the deceit and oppression and fear, the characters still are able to carve some semblance of a happy life, like a lone flower forcing its way up through a crack in pavement. They show what it’s like to choose dignity in the face of those whose aim is to defile.
I sat on my comfy sofa under my electric lamp with a snack, a cat, and a glass of wine beside me, the rest of my family snuggled warm in their beds while I read these scenes of desolation, deprivation, and violence. I had an urge to get rid of most all of my possessions and to take better care of those that were left. I wanted to clean the kitchen and hug my children. I felt acutely the privilege with which I’ve grown up as a member of the American middle class. I felt gratitude tinged with shame.
This was a thoroughly satisfying read for me. The scenes of this book I’m certain will continue playing out in my mind for a long time to come. (I liked this book so much, I’m even willing to forgive Hosseini for suggesting that a breech baby can’t be born vaginally.)