Tuesday, July 7, 2009
The Kite Runner
When I read a good story, all my senses get involved. Every time I read the Harry Potter series, I want to sit down at a creaky wooden table in a small shop lit by a crackling fire with a mug of butterbeer. I don’t even know what the stuff would taste like, but I’d just like to go there and at least try it. Or when I read Wendell Berry, I want to just discard all of my possessions, move to a small rural farm, and bask in the simplicity of life. I doesn’t matter that I would fail miserably at such an effort, my senses don’t care about reality when I’m reading.
Good stories take you places, places you don’t have to work very hard to understand. That’s because good storytellers don’t just tell you that a place is scary or that the woods are enchanted, they describe the place and let it come alive in your imagination. I don’t have to read very far into the Narnia series or the Lord of the Rings trilogy to begin to feel the place come alive in my mind.
Before I get too mystical about the whole experience of reading a good story, I should get to the point. The point is that different stories have varying effects on us, but the really great ones invite all our senses along for the journey.
The Kite Runner is one such book. As I read through the story, I started to get this desire for lamb kebabs and strong tea. But I could tell quickly that this wasn’t going to be a story that would just cater to my sense of imagination. This was going to be tougher than just imagining lamb kebabs and strong tea.
It is an absolutely brutal story. Ups and downs, twists and turns, and more sadness than any book I’ve read in recent memory. It paints a picture of a boy who grows into a man in Afghanistan, coming to grip with all sorts of baggage as he copes with his past and tries to push forward in life.
I kept saying “NO!” inside my head as the plot unfolded, with one tragedy after another. But in the end, Hosseini weaves the threads of the story together beautifully to create one amazing fabric.
This is not the kind of story that I will return to again and again. It does not carry the imagination to a fictional place. Instead, it is troubling. It is hard to digest. It is too real to be imagined. But it is a story that needs to be heard, and it’s a story well worth the time to read, because it opens the eyes of the mind to the human condition.