Khaled Hosseini

From Publishers Weekly...
Tosseini's stunning debut novel starts as an eloquent Afghan version of the American immigrant experience in the late 20th century, but betrayal and redemption come to the forefront when the narrator, a writer, returns to his ravaged homeland to rescue the son of his childhood friend after the boy's parents are shot during the Taliban takeover in the mid '90s. Amir, the son of a well-to-do Kabul merchant, is the first-person narrator, who marries, moves to California and becomes a successful novelist. But he remains haunted by a childhood incident in which he betrayed the trust of his best friend, a Hazara boy named Hassan, who receives a brutal beating from some local bullies. After establishing himself in America, Amir learns that the Taliban have murdered Hassan and his wife, raising questions about the fate of his son, Sohrab. Spurred on by childhood guilt, Amir makes the difficult journey to Kabul, only to learn the boy has been enslaved by a former childhood bully who has become a prominent Taliban official. The price Amir must pay to recover the boy is just one of several brilliant, startling plot twists that make this book memorable both as a political chronicle and a deeply personal tale about how childhood choices affect our adult lives. The character studies alone would make this a noteworthy debut, from the portrait of the sensitive, insecure Amir to the multilayered development of his father, Baba, whose sacrifices and scandalous behavior are fully revealed only when Amir returns to Afghanistan and learns the true nature of his relationship to Hassan. Add an incisive, perceptive examination of recent Afghan history and its ramifications in both America and the Middle East, and the result is a complete work of literature that succeeds in exploring the culture of a previously obscure nation that has become a pivot point in the global politics of the new millennium.

SPOILER: sent in by John Y. who says..."This book was recommended to me so I checked it out from the local library not really knowing much about it. It moved me so much I wanted to share. It is VERY sad, but so beautifully written."

The book begins near the end of the story and is told mostly in retrospect. The narrator, Amir is the son of a wealthy Afghanistan man in the 1970s. His family is very privileged, they live in a beautiful house in a suburb of Kabul. A servant family of Hazaras take care of he and his father, as his mother died while giving birth to him. The servant family also has a son, nearly the same age and the two boys grow up together, sharing a happy life. They play together often, the privileged son reading to the other boy, but Amir is also sometimes cruel to him as close friends sometimes are. One day when the boys are about 12, after a kite flying contest (an annual festival) Hassan, the servant boy is beaten and raped by some other privileged boys. Amir followed him and sees what happens, but does nothing to help Hassan. This betrayal haunts him for his whole life, and he never forgets or forgives himself for not doing or saying anything to anyone.

Because he cannot live with his guilt, Amir lies to his father that Hassan has stolen something from him. The servant family moves away in shame.

Then, the Taliban moves in to Afghanistan and the war begins. Amir and his father flee the country in secret. They arrive in America with only a few things and find an Afghan community in San Francisco. They live like paupers, but Amir is able to attend college and becomes a writer, much to his father's chagrin. He meets an Afghan woman he wants to marry and his father gives them his blessing before he dies. Amir never tells his wife of the betrayal of Hassan.

Amir and his wife try many times to have children, but even after fertility treatments, are unable to conceive. Then he receives a phone call from an old friend of his father's, who says he must come at once to see him in Pakistan, he is near death and has something to show him. (This is where we first came in to the story at the beginning of the book.)

Amir travels to see the old friend and he shows him a picture and gives him a letter from Hassan. The old man tells him that he is too late, that Hassan is dead, but he has a son, the boy in the picture. He also tells him that Hassan was his brother, the illegitimate son of Amir's father and the servant woman. He tells him he must go and save his nephew from the horrible orphanage in Afghanistan. Amir travels through the war-torn country to find the boy. He sees the horror of what was his beloved homeland.

Amir finds the boy at the home of the head Taliban - who just so happens to be the boy, now grown up, that raped and beat his friend Hassan. There is a terrible fight and Sohrab, his nephew ends up saving Amir's life and they flee to Pakistan.

Sohrab is a very delicate and frightened young boy who had also been abused by the Taliban leader. He is very wary of Amir and his intentions, and even tries to kill himself. Amir is finally able to get the boy to America, but Sohrab is too damaged emotionally. In the end, we see Amir trying to engage his nephew in the art of kite flying, for which his father, Hassan was so gifted.