Now no matter what the mullah teaches, there is only one sin. And that is theft. Every other sin is a variation of theft. When you kill a man, you steal a life. You steal his wife’s right to a husband, rob his children of a father. When you tell a lie, you steal someone’s right to the truth. When you cheat, you steal the right to fairness. –Khaled Hossieni
I have just finished reading this book. A very interesting read I must say. I always have a thing for sad books; those melancholic ones that leave your eyes puffy and moist with tears. I don’t know why but I think the roller-coaster of emotions that these books take me through are the reasons I go for them. That was why when I read a review of this book a while back on my Instagram timeline (bless you @_craftit, I follow really cool people), and on the review @_craftit says, “Read the book. But please, no tears.” I said I had to lay my hands on it. This is how I spent my Easter; in the early 1970s down in Afghanistan, in the city of Kabul. Only to come back to reality when I needed to pee or to eat, or to reply to a bunch of WhatsApp messages. Okay, there were no WhatsApp messages to respond to, I just said that so as to sound like somebody important; someone who receives over twenty messages from over ten chats, and none of them groups. There were no messages to respond to people, only group messages. And… It has come to my attention that I am digressing, back to my review now.
The book starts with Amir, the narrator, telling us that he became what he is today on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975 when he was twelve. Now, that first paragraph got my attention. I believe a good book is one that is able to capture your attention just on the first lines of the first paragraph. And this one did. Just from the first paragraph, I formed questions in my head already, what happened in the winter of 1975? What happened to our narrator when he was just twelve years old that made him what he is today? And what sort of a person is he today?
Then still on the first paragraph, he gives us a brief peek on what might have happened on that fateful overcast day; he says, “I remember the precise moment, crouching behind a crumbling mud wall, peeking into the alley near the frozen creek. That was long time ago, but it’s wrong what they say about the past, I’ve 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.”
Now we know there was an alley, and it was deserted, making it all the more ominous. And something really bad must have happened in that alley. And that got me curious. It got me turning page after page; chapter after chapter just wanting to know what exactly happened in that godforsaken creepy alley. Like a gold digger (not the man or woman after his/her lover’s money) I dug deeper and deeper, knowing that deep down there somewhere lies the key to this mystery. And when I finally reached that page of the alley, I wished I hadn’t because it stayed with me for the rest of the book. And trust you me guys, it is traumatizing.
The narrator goes on to say in the second chapter about a call he received from his father’s bestfriend, Rahim Khan, who lives in Pakistan. He says that he knew that it wasn’t just Rahim Khan calling on the other end. “It was my past of unatoned sins”
And right there, I knew there was some sin he must have committed in that winter of 1975. What sin was it? What did he do? Or is it what he did NOT do? There was suspense already, suspense in the first paragraph. This Khaled Hosseini guy is good.
In the third paragraph, the narrator tells us about something Rahim Khaled mentioned before he hangs up, just as an afterthought. Si you know those things you say when the other person is almost hanging up, and you say it hoping that he hasn’t hang up already, only to realize that they already did? Yes, Rahim Khan told our narrator that there is a way for him to be good again. the narrator then starts thinking about life in Afghanistan, the life he had lived until the winter of 1975 came and changed everything and made him what he is today (again he mentions it. kwani how is he different yawa?). He thought about Hassan. He thought about Baba. Ali. Kabul. And that is how the first chapter ends, with Amir reminiscing about his past.
See, that’s the other thing I loved about this book, the short chapters. Long chapters kind of bore me to death. At least with short chapters, I know that I am getting closer and closer to unraveling the mystery behind the book. I am always impatient like that
The book takes us back in time to the days Afghanistan was still a peaceful nation; when kids still flew kites in tournaments, when there was still love and friendship among neighbours, when laughter was still easy on the lips. Not the rubble that we see on TV these days. He (the author) reveals a different kind of Afghanistan before the Russians came in in the 80s and turned it into a hell hole. After the Russians left, came the Taliban; people with big beards who wore black turbans and eyes that left you feeling naked ha-ha, actually this naked part cracked me up; the narrators says ‘one of them, a dark-skinned man in his early twenties with thick knitted eyebrows twirled a whip in his hand and rhythmically swatted the side of the truck with it. His roaming eyes fell on me. Held my gaze. I’d never felt so naked in my entire life.’ You know what guys, I felt like I was there, standing right there beside Hassan and Farid, with our hearts in our mouths scared shitless. Ah… the power of reading, it’s magical I tell you.
I read this book in three days. The shortest time I have ever taken with a book. I am a slow reader, but this book demanded attention. It kept me on the edge of my seat all of the time. Lucy, if you will see this, it is because of this book that I couldn’t make it to that conference that you invited me to on time. See, I couldn’t bring myself to put it down. I found myself reading way past my bedtime. Have you ever been to a bar drinking with your buddies… you know, just having sometime out with “dem mboys”… talking football, politics, books, women… then you look at your watch and it reads 1:00 AM, and you ask yourself where the time went? Because you know when you get back home drunk as a skunk, the missus is going to kill you? Yes, I also got lost in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and America only to come back to reality and realize its two in the morning and I am the only one still awake.
The lady that reviewed the book on her instagram page said, …”there is little humor in the rest of the book though…” she says this after telling us about the part where Amir’s ass had been whooped by Assef (I hate this guy!!!!) and Amir was remembering how he blacked out, ‘ chocking on my own teeth, swallowing them, thinking about all the countless hours I’d spent flossing and brushing.’ Ha-ha, you gotta admit, that part was funny. Anyway she goes on to say…” you’ll read it mostly with your butt cheeks clenched, waiting for horrid stuff to happen when you turn the next page. Then turn again and again.” It is true guys, after Amir was beaten half to death, and Sohrab saves his ass, I also expected men with beards and turbans all over Peshawar looking for Amir, finding him, or worse, finding Farid and torturing him until he reveals the whereabouts of Amir. But nothing of that sort happens. I was both relieved and disappointed.
But as @_craftit says, the writing is easy. “Sentences are clean. Story telling is tight.” And I must add, paragraphs awesomely short….
“Read the book. But please, no tears”
“She said, ‘I’m so afraid.’ And I said, ‘why?,’ and she said, ‘Because I’m so profoundly happy, Dr. Rasul. Happiness like this is frightening.’ I asked her why and she said, ‘They only let you be this happy if they’re preparing to take something from you.”-Khaled Hosseini
My thoughts as at 2:22PM APRIL 17TH