It is as much a political novel as it is a human one. Hosseini’s tale sets you on a heart rending journey that you strangely do not want to abandon until it is done.
I’ve not read a book that unrelentingly. I picked it from my book shelf some three months after I bought it, while nursing a sickness and a very present depression, for at the time perhaps only printed words were possibly life.
And I did not put that book down, from 9 that morning, to 8:30 that night.
The story that starts in Herat, Afghanistan, ends in Kabul, in the same country. There are several layers to this story, more layers than the mere politics and humanistics. Firmly built around the nucleus of family, Hosseini sews strings to the nucleus. Strings that talk about the inflexibility of some cultures, the hardness of pride, the brittleness of life, the perseverance of love, the audacity of hope…So much
You will be thrown into the deep end of a culture that might be erstwhile unknown to many. Sacred customs – the greetings, prayers, communal life; ancient poetry, the musical genres, new landscapes – mountains, streets, rivers; a history of a people who for a time we’ve known only from the print of newspapers or the reporters on international television stations.
You live for a while in Afghanistan for thirty-nine years and what a great tribute to the story of Afghanistan. The people of war-torn territory you finally understand even if a little. Almost sharing their pain and wondering about your ingratitude and pettiness.
Finally, it becomes more than statistics. The pain, the heartache, the suffering, the insensibility of the war takes face in the lives of the characters given to us. The real loss. The real pain. The real betrayal. The real inhumanity. Afghanistan becomes more than Taliban and Osama Bin Laden and Mujahideen.
You begin to ask questions about why people could fight for so long and not notice their loss. You notice the questions about religion and its varying interpretation. You cherish women, so much, when you read this story. For a long time in the story, there seems no man (read male) will be a hero, and perhaps in the end no man is a hero, for the women bear so much of the brunt and burden of the tragedies.
If you hate tragedies, read this book with a handkerchief but read it till the end. For as much as there is tragedy, there is always hope. There is always longing. Always forgiveness, always seeds of a better future, and if you are keen enough, there are several times genuine laughter will fill your heart.
I dare not tell you about the characters and their stories because this is a book that needs to be discovered and enjoyed for oneself. It whetted my appetite for more Arabian writing, more of Hosseini’s tales and gave me a new found respect for cultures I have not paid much attention to before.
This is what they call a 5 star book.