The Kite Runner

by Khaled Hosseini

Hardcover, 2003

Collection

Genres

Publication

Riverhead (2003), Edition: First Edition, 371 pages

Description

Traces the unlikely friendship of a wealthy Afghan youth and a servant's son in a tale that spans the final days of Afghanistan's monarchy through the atrocities of the present day.

Media reviews

The Kite Runner is about the price of peace, both personal and political, and what we knowingly destroy in our hope of achieving that, be it friends, democracy or ourselves.
2 more
At times, the book suffers from relentless earnestness and somewhat hackneyed descriptions. But Hosseini has a remarkable ability to imprison the reader in horrific, shatteringly immediate scenes... The result is a sickening sensation of complicity.
This powerful first novel, by an Afghan physician now living in California, tells a story of fierce cruelty and fierce yet redeeming love.

User reviews

LibraryThing member lmichet
Okay. If you're thinking about reading this book, please do the following before you rent/buy it.
1) Locate a copy.
2) Open it to the first page of the text.
3) Read the first paragraph of the first page of the story out loud, as loudly as possible, to a group of your friends.
4) Ask yourself, 'Does this sound like a reasonable book? Does it have the kind of literary subtlety I expect in a truly great story?'

If you answered 'yes' to the above question, I have no idea what to tell you.

This book oozes with so much needless melodrama that I felt at times as if I was watching a crappy made-for-TV daytime television movie. I cannot explain why people enjoy it so much. I think it's because of the rape scene; they're shocked that there IS a rape scene, so they immediately label the whole thing 'gritty and realistic' and step back, as if to say, "gosh, I'm not qualified to criticize this book anymore. I mean, it's got a RAPE SCENE in it!"

Yes, boys and girls, it DOES have a rape scene in it. But this does not mean that it's realistic or exciting or even wrenchingly truthful or any of those other compliments it seems to garner. The book is inherently UNREALISTIC. It turns into some kind of thriller three quarters of the way through, for God's sake! The character has flaws, yes, but this doesn't make him realistic; in fact, I found myself totally unable to sympathize with him in any way whatsoever. And furthermore the fact that it's about Afghanistan doesn't make it realer than any other excessively melodramatic book with rape and fight scenes in it. Cultural content does not a crappy story and poor writing redeem.

Please, people, begin treating this book more realistically. Don't be afraid to point out its flaws just because calling a rising-star American-Afghani writer an absolute failure seems like a mean thing to do. Because that's what this book is. An absolute failure.

I haven't read 'A Thousand Splendid Suns', and I don't plan on it. Maybe he got better/started cutting some of the fat off his writing. But I doubt it, and I don't want to waste my time finding out.
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LibraryThing member jolerie
"Now, no matter what the mullah teaches, there is only one sin, only one. And that is theft. Every other sin is a variation of theft. Do you understand that?"
"When you kill a man, you steal a life," Baba said. "You steal his wife's right to a husband, rob his children of a father. When you lie, you steal someone's right to the truth. When you cheat, you steal the right to fairness. Do you see?"


Brotherhood that is forged from the moment you are born is a strong bond. Amir and Hassan are friends, comrades, brothers, from the moment they laid eyes on one another. Their childhood is filled with memories of afternoons basking in each other's presence, playing games, reading stories, flying kites, or simply just being with one another. One winter afternoon, one violent act of betrayal, one moment of selfishness, creates a rift between the two boys that will haunt them for the rest of their lives.

Hosseini has a unique talent for storytelling. He has the ability to write about a world that is so close to his heart, so foreign to the rest of the world, and yet is able to strike a chord within all of us about the universality of the human heart and the perseverance that moves us to live life. There is so much brutality and violence in the world that he creates for us and yet at the end of it all, there is the hope of redemption. I know that I will walk away from his books always with a perspective change and a grateful heart. Highly recommended for anyone who wants to read a story about people who have flaws, people who will make mistakes, but real, relatable people nonetheless.… (more)
LibraryThing member Terpsichoreus
This is the sort of book White America reads to feel wordly. Just like the spate of Native American pop fiction in the late eighties, this is overwhelmingly colonized literature, in that it pretends to reveal some aspect of the 'other' culture, but a closer inspection reveals that aside from the occasional tidbit, it is a western story, firmly ensconced in the western tradition. Even those tidbits Hosseini gives are of such a vague degree that to be impressed by them, one would have to have almost no knowledge of the history of Afghanistan, nor the cultural conflicts raging there between the shia and sunni Muslims. Of course, most Americans have no familiarity with either.

Hosseini's story is thickly foreshadowed and wraps up so nicely in the end that it negates the ability of the text to produce anything interesting or surprising. Every coincidence that could happen, does happen. He attempts to wrangle in the reader's interest despite this, usually with dramatized violence. He is also fond of forcing tension by creating a small conflict between two characters and then having them agonize over it for years. This would not be problematic in itself, except that the conflict does not grow or change over time, leaving the characters' reactions petty and repetitive.

He even creates a cliched 'white devil' character, a literal sociopath (and pedophile) as the symbol for the 'evils' of the Taliban. This contrasts oddly since book does not shy away from representing the simple inequalities and pointless conflicts which stem from Afghan tradition, itself. His indelicate inclusion of wealthy, beautiful, white power as the source of religious turmoil in the mid-east negates his hints that the conflicts are caused by small-mindedness.

The sad part about this book is that it will allow white America both to feel sympathy with the mid-east conflict, and also to retain a sense of superiority over the Muslims and their 'backwards, classicist, warlike' ways. Even after all of that, they will not really have come to any understanding of the vast and vital economic concerns which have made the mid-east so important to the future of the world.

It is unfortunate that nowhere amongst this book's artfully dramatized violence or its alternative praising and demonizing of the West is there the underlying sense of why this conflict is happening, of what put it all into place, and of why it will continue to drag us all down. The point where we could turn our sympathy into indignation or realization is simply absent.

There is a meme on the internet showing a map of the world with the mid-east replaced by a sea-filled crater with the comment 'problem solved'. What this map fails to represent is that there is a reason the west keeps meddling in the affairs of the mid-east, and that every time we do, it creates another conflict. As long as we see the Taliban as faceless sociopaths, we can do nothing against them. We must recognize that normal people fall down these paths, and that everyone sees himself as being 'in the right'. So who is more right: a Westerner who bombs a child, or a Muslim who does?

The point shouldn't be to separate the 'good Muslims' from the 'bad Muslims', because people aren't fundamentally good or bad. They are fundamentally people. Almost without exception, they are looking out for their future, their children, and their communities. Calling someone 'evil' merely means you have ceased to try understanding their point of view, and decided instead to merely hate for hatred's sake.

This book isn't particularly insightful or well-written, but that is in no way remarkable from bestsellers. The problem is that Americans are going to use this book to justify their ignorance about the problems in the east. This book will make people feel better about themselves, instead of help them to think better about the world.
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LibraryThing member anterastilis
Sometimes, the angsty Indie Rebel Grrl in me doesn’t want to read bestsellers. EVERYONE’S reading them. I don’t want to be a lemming, do I? Then I search for the obscure and the forgotten. But then I think, well, maybe they’re bestsellers for a reason. So I read Harry Potters and Da Vinci Codes, and I enjoy them. I don’t think the fact that everyone else on the freaking planet enjoyed them makes them any less enjoyable to me. I won’t let Indie Rebel Grrl get in the way of me enjoying a good book.

Speaking of enjoying books, I have a hard time saying that I enjoyed The Kite Runner. Oh, it’s a phenomenal book. Seriously. But the topics dealt with made me cringe, cry, and set the book down for days at a time because; maybe if I stopped reading, the horrors in the book would stop.

We begin in the mid 1970’s. Amir is growing up in an affluent section of a peaceful Kabul, Afghanistan. His father, Baba, is a well-respected businessman. His father’s servant is Ali, and Ali’s son is Hassan. Hassan and Amir grow up together, like two peas in a pod. Hassan, a Hazara (a racial minority in Afghanistan) is essentially Amir’s servant. But as children, that does not seem to be that big of a deal. Amir’s biggest concerns are the upcoming kite-flying season and pleasing his stand-offish father. Hassan is just about the most good-natured, loyal friend that one could have.

One day, Hassan becomes the victim of a vicious crime perpetrated by neighborhood bullies. Amir witnesses the violence and, paralyzed by fear, says and does nothing. His guilt tortures him and he pushes Hassan away. The way in which Amir treats Hassan was worse for me than the physical abuse that Hassan was subjected to.

I hesitate to say much more than I have already. I don’t want to ruin it for you all.

Okay, I’ll say this much.

Time passes.

The Russians invade Afghanistan, and Amir and Baba escape to America, where they rebuild their lives in a small Afghani community in California.

More time passes.

The Russians are replaced by the Taliban.

Amir, who had accepted his position in life as a coward, is given the opportunity to redeem himself and to honor his friend, Hassan.

But seriously, people. This was an EXCELLENT book. There were several times in which I thought "Where could it POSSIBLY go from here???" and oh, it WENT there. I suppose that if you remove the emotional ride and just look at facts, the story doesn’t quite add up. There are parts that seemed hurried and some that seemed to be an entire book unto themselves. But I would recommend this book to anyone except those who

a) seriously cannot handle reading about child abuse
b) Think that all Afghans are a bunch of shifty-eyed Jihadists that only want to bomb Amerika and steal our women
c) Can’t tell your inner Indie Rebel Grrl (or boi) to shut up and enjoy a book that others have enjoyed, too.
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LibraryThing member lkernagh
What can I say about this one that hasn’t already been said by others? This is an amazing story, tackling such broad themes of friendship/brotherhood, courage, sacrifice, betrayal and a quest for redemption set against the backdrop of pre- and post-war Afghanistan. A coming-of-age story that packs quite the punch, exposing the reader to the very soul of Amir, the story’s main character, in a brutally honest manner as Amir grows from a young child into a man who has to finally face something he has been trying to bury away for years. Hosseini’s writing is rich – dare I say provocative? – and presents the reader with a vivid image that stayed in this reader’s mind long after I had finished the story. For a debut novel, Hosseini has created a complex story of fragile relationships between fathers and sons, of the bonds between close friends, of the desire to correct a wrong and presents it to the reader with such beautiful, poignant, heart-rendering intimacy I was completely drawn into the story and even though parts of the story was painful to experience, I didn’t want it to end.

Overall, a remarkable and very memorable debut novel, worthy of all the praise that it has received and my best read so far in 2016! I can also highly recommend the audiobook version, read by the author.
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LibraryThing member jergarmar
I did not like this book, but I'm glad I read it. Let me explain myself.

I derived significant pleasure from the intimate knowledge of Afghanistan (and the Afghan people and culture) that the author obviously possesses. The well-described scenes of daily life (both in and out of Afghanistan) had an aura of unimpeachable authenticity. However, as a novel this book utterly disappointed me. I love books of tragedy and redemption, but this one played out clumsily and crudely for me. It starts out well, working its way up to a tragedy that promises to drive the actions of the main characters, but then the book fails to deliver on that promise.

The author tries to intensify and prolong the original tragedy while also giving a summary of Afghan live before and after their "diaspora" resulting from the Revolution and Soviet invasion. While trying to do both, the integrity of the book greatly suffers. Scenes of ordinary life and ordinary struggles are pushed into jarring juxtaposition with scenes of fantastic violence and degradation and jaw-dropping coincidences. Thus the fascinating scenes of ordinary life are sapped of their power and impact. Even at the end of the book, a seemingly minor setback erupts into another violent tragedy from which the book barely emerges in its final pages. Ultimately even the redemption of the main character is "passive", since it is driven by events out of his control (think "Shawshank Redemption" for someone playing a very active role in one's redemption).

I will recognize the possibility that the methods of storytelling may be somewhat unfamiliar to me (I am no expert on Afghan literature). Also I recognize that much of it may, in fact, be true. However, by any standards of dramatic action it is ineffective as a novel. I found myself wishing that the author had chosen to write a non-fiction account of the lives of various Afghans. Interesting but disappointing.
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LibraryThing member karriethelibrarian
I was grateful for the insights into life in Afghanistan because I've never really had any exposure to life in this country beyond the recent negative mentions of it in the news.

I became very connected to the boys, hoping that they would overcome the hardships they faced. Even when Hassan has a tragic end I didn't want to believe it was final. I spent the rest of the book hoping, just like Amir did, that he lived on.

As someone who hasn't traveled a lot outside my comfort zone, I had pictured Afghanistan has brown, dirty and dry, so Hosseini's vivid descriptions of the color and greenery in Amir's neighborhood gave me the opportunity to have a different picture painted for me.

I am looking forward to seeing the movie largely because I had a hard time imagining how the kite flying worked with the glass string. I need to have a visual on that to complete my understanding of this amazing book.
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LibraryThing member BenRad
It gets 2 stars for a brilliant first half and no stars for a horribly predictable, sentimental action-adventure second half. I couldn't even finish the book. It felt as if someone read the draft half way through and said, "Hey, Khaled, you could really turn this into a big Hollywood movie!" and Hosseini changed gears and killed the story.… (more)
LibraryThing member jlelliott
Immensely painful to read in sections, this book shows that Hosseini is as adept at crafting misery as Hollywood movies are adept at crafting happy endings. The protagonist is so selfish and cowardly at the start that I had trouble empathizing with him, but he certainly redeems himself in the end. The book’s descriptions of Afghani culture both before and after the start of the war are fascinating, and the Taliban come across as incredibly sinister and frightening, a visceral impression I never obtained from any of the histories I have read of Afghanistan. The view of race relations in a society outside of the United States is also interesting. The ruins of Kabul and Afghani society are an indictment against the helplessness and apathy of the world powers that allowed this destruction to happen. It is a book worth reading, if only to understand that people are capable of any redemption as long as they can make it possible to forgive themselves.… (more)
LibraryThing member merideth1775
Rarely have I read a book that was so poignant that I had to stop reading to take it all in. This was one of those few books that had the ability to bring me so far into the book that I felt like a fly on the wall- there in the moment. A book that everyone should read. It opens your mind and truly makes you appreciate the way of life and freedom we so often take for granted.… (more)
LibraryThing member Athy127
Ending was kinda terrible and unbelievable.
LibraryThing member bfertig
I, too, read [the kite runner] and have seen the movie. both were enjoyable and fine. It was a good read. Well written. But honestly, I felt that it was only half a story told twice. Everything was mirrored so perfectly between the two halves of the book (in Afghanistan, in America) and so symmetrical between the generations (eg physical deformities in Ali and Hassan, etc) that I felt everything was so contrived (I think the real reason that Amir's wife couldn't get pregnant was because there needed to be a gap in their lives to be filled by Hassan's son) that I didn't really feel like I was reading a story but rather looking at how well the author start an outline, copy and paste it when he got halfway, and then change some of the words so that he didn't plagerize himself.

All that being said, it was worth following the outline along because the writing gave it trappings of realism - details that made it interesting and provided a sense of the scene - even though the story itself was so clearly contrived.

And it does deal with important and timely themes - Afghanistan, immigration, war, in addition to good-ol standards such as love, friendship, and family.

Final thought: Wow. 425th review. Honestly who will read this one vs. any of the others? If you haven't read this book already, you probably ought to just to keep yourself generally up to date with what will undoubtedly be (if not already) a cultural reference and icon of the times.
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LibraryThing member Petroglyph
TL;DR: Starts out okay, but devolves into lifeless melodramatic dreck: an unimaginative soap opera plot padded out to book length.

I wanted to like this, I really did. But my tolerance for cheap melodramatic tricks is fairly low, and this book had exhausted my supply of it by the halfway point, and then it kept getting progressively worse. The closest parallel I can think of is unimaginative, lazily written daytime tv movies.

The kite runner starts as regular popular litfic: a middle-aged writer struggling to cope with Issues From His Past. The writer in question is Amir, an Afghan-American who emigrated when the Soviets occupied his home country, and his Issues From The Past stem from the guilt from how horribly he treated the servant boy he grew up with.

Throughout his childhood in Kabul, the main character’s relationship to his servant-cum-playmate Hassan is asymmetrical: Amir is literate, wealthy, sleeps in a house, and feels self-righteous and generous in lording all this over Hassan only subtly and occasionally, essentially treating him as affectionately as a pet. Hassan, by contrast, offers displays of friendship and loyalty that are almost comically exaggerated. During one such self-sacrificial display, Hassan runs afoul of the neighbourhood bully, who rapes him, while Amir watches from hiding, too scared to intervene. It is Amir’s guilt that later drives him to have Hassan sent away on false charges and to the aforementioned Issues From His Past.

So far, so litfic. But it is at this point, when the Taliban take over Afghanistan from the Soviets, and when Amir and his fellow Afghan-American wife are unable to conceive, that the book started to lose me. It turns out that -- dramatic chord! -- Hassan and Amir are … brothers! It also turns out that -- more dramatic chords -- while Hassan was killed by the Taliban, he has … a son! Who needs to be liberated … from the Taliban! Who looks … exactly like his father! A middle-aged writer could not have asked for a better way to atone for his past self’s misdeeds.

Of course, in the tradition of by-the-numbers daytime TV movies, The kite runner shamelessly moves from one dramatic chord to the next. The Taliban leader who has taken the little boy for a sex slave turns out to be … the childhood bully who raped Hassan! And, very filmically, after his heroic extraction operation, Amir will forever sport a scar on his upper lip -- to parallel Hassan’s harelip! And then, because the adoption process may not go through, … the kid tries to commit suicide! But then a well-connected family-member-ex-machina pulls some strings, and … the adoption goes through anyway. Finally, at the end, as the middle-aged Amir engages Hassan’s son in a game he used to play with Hassan, the little boy … shows signs of happiness! I could not help but picture a soap opera’s dramatic zoom at each of these revelations, and each time I was a little more disappointed in how low this book had sunk.

On top of that, the prose takes pains to explicitly point out all of the parallelisms and echoes that so melodramatically accentuate Amir’s journey to atonement, as though we, the readers, cannot be trusted to see these things for ourselves. Daytime TV levels, indeed.

This book exasperated me: as it limped along Cliché Road, each new melodramatic chord and unimaginative plot point felt like it was actively trying to annoy me. None of the dramatic chord moments I listed are there because of things like well-rounded characters, thematic relevance, or attempts at a convincing plot: they are so transparently a hack writer’s tools to make a main character’s atonement as emotional as possible. The kite runner has only one trick: it’ll tug at that one heart string in whatever way is the least imaginative and the most overdone.

I will not be reading another book by Khaled Hosseini.
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LibraryThing member GBev2008
Compelling, moving, and well written. It suffers slightly from a few predictable and convenient plot twists and one too many melodramatic tragedies; but still a pretty good novel.
LibraryThing member kobritz
The first half of the book, set in Afghanistan before the Russian invasion, was beautifully written, filled with the sense of particular place and time. It reads like a memoir rather as much as a novel.

The second half, however, does not live up to the promise. The author seems determined to create a mirror image of the first half and bring everything full circle, rather than letting the story continue to unfold. He will stop at nothing to achieve his purpose and finally turns his hero into a comic book superhero vanquishing foes against all odds.

I was so disappointed in the working out of the conflicts set up in the first half that I have been hesitant to invest the time in Hosseini's new novel.
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LibraryThing member mikemillertime
Trite, boring read with predicatable elements told in amateurish prose wityh redundant stock metaphors about filtered light and wrinkled faces. Some may find it to be the enlightening story of immigrant redemption; I think it laboringly goes through the motions from its initial semi-absurd setup in a dreary routine of bathos and faux revelation.… (more)
LibraryThing member chrisblocker
The Kite Runner is simply the most American foreign novel I've ever read. For those who aren't clear on this, that's not a good thing. We'll come back to this...

As a story, The Kite Runner starts a bit slow. I wasn't engaged as a reader until eighty to a hundred pages in. There was just considerable information to process and not much emotional weight to the story. The narrative jumped around quite a bit and it was difficult to follow. Then the tension began to rise. Amir, Hassan, and Baba became real. I was pulled into the narrative and I began to see how this story might actually warrant all the praise it has received. The characters were interesting and the plot was riveting.

For a chunk of this book somewhere in the middle, the story is quite good. There's the divisive heartrending story of the past that haunts our protagonist. His journey into adulthood, marriage, and immigration is insightful and honest. When the time comes for Amir to go back to Afghanistan, I expected the book to reach a satisfying conclusion, quietly observing Amir's past from his new position and providing Amir an opportunity to redeem himself for his past mistakes.

Then Khaled Hosseini did two things to crap all over any hopes I had for this book.

First, he found the cutest little ribbon he could, wrapped it around his story and tied it up so prettily. No, it doesn't end there. He found another cute ribbon. And he wrapped it around the story and the first bow. Then he found another. And another. There are no bloody kite strings in this novel. Those are the most ornate, gaudy ribbons the author could find because he wants you to see all of them. See this pretty ribbon here? Here's how I tie it all together. See this plot line here? Here's how I conveniently finish it off? Didn't see it? Well, let me explain it to you. There's redemption and there's soap opera drama needlessly orchestrated from page one. The Kite Runner is very much the second.

Second, and this is what really offends me, the intention of The Kite Runner is clear: to be a foreign novel that makes Americans happy that they're Americans. It justifies the superiority complex while convincing the reader that they're culturally aware. The western belief that Muslim nations are evil and that they need our salvation is abundant in the later half of this book. The Taliban is painted as a childish, hypocritical caricature with no need for sympathy. The only redeemable Muslim characters are those who reject any expression of faith and embrace western ideas and imagery. But it's all written by an Afghan, so it must be the way things are, right? Yes, The Kite Runner is a book that lets you feel cultured and entirely justified in bombing those bastards overseas.

I know many people love this book. I know that I've probably just stepped on many of their toes. They may think I'm calling them out as an “ignorant westerner.” I'm not. This book perpetuates these ideas, but falling for a good story while missing the underlying colonial notions can happen to the best of us, especially when the author is “one of them.” I do wish I'd read a book from Afghanistan that better represented the nation and its people. Hopefully, someday I'll get back around to it.
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LibraryThing member jellyish
Very painful book to read but is excelelnt.
LibraryThing member Bababernice
Upon picking up this book, I sat on my bed and read the first few pages. Without realizing it, I sat at the exact same spot and read half the book, turning the pages furiously as vivid images and characters enthralled me.

It tells a story of true friendships in the form of Amir and Hassan as well as Baba and Ali. It tells of love, of fighting for happiness, of family betrayal and exposes me to the sense of helplessness during the years before the war and the Taliban.

It is truly a beautiful book. It changes me perspective, helps me learn and is definitely worth the hype surrounding it.
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LibraryThing member postergaard
Too much pain for me and in spite of all this pain I never got very deep into the characters in the book.

But dispite that the book is very relevant in these times.
LibraryThing member rosenpage
Superb book-scores on character, plot and
writing.
LibraryThing member Peterabun
Wow! I bought this book at a reading by the author, long before it was a best-seller or a movie. I started it several times but hesitated to commit as I was afraid of being disappointed. Then I found myself sucked in and fascinated by this strange world the author was describing. And then the story had me.One thing about this book -- it is very sad. Just when you think the protaganist has hit the worst point imaginable, a lower point is acheived! And this happens for the whole book! It just keeps getting lower and lower. More depressing and more depressing. So, why do people stay with it and endure this sadness? It's a fascinating story, that's why.I did not enjoy "A Thousand Splendid Suns" as much as "The Kite Runner." However, my wife and daughter both enjoyed "Suns" more than "Kite Runner." Of course, "Kite Runner" is about men and "Suns" is about women. Maybe that's why the difference of opinions.… (more)
LibraryThing member shieldsk2
A sad tale of friends that are torn apart by class and war.
LibraryThing member CaroPg
This book was really good...hard to read I have to say, but really good. I liked how the book is written in first person, so you feel like you were Amir. As a woman, reading the part where the Taliban takes power was even harder, as I am profoundly offended by this extremist group, as a woman and as a humanist. But I would definitely tag this book as a page turner!. You will have moments where you want to close it and cry, but the end is so full of emotion it makes it worth it!.… (more)
LibraryThing member red.yardbird
Great book. I read Thousand Splendid Suns a while back and at the time thought that it must be better than his first book, because it was so good. But I think I enjoyed this one even more. Something in the search for redemption that appealed.

Pages

371

ISBN

1573222453 / 9781573222457
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