The novel moved me to tears, and as a tale of guilt and redemption one seems to identify with different characters or groups of characters in the three parts. In the first, it is the innocent Hassan, who is at the receiving end of physical abuse and injustice, despite his sacrifices for the people around him. In the second, it is the family of Baba, Amir, and Soraya Taheri, who are confronted with challenges after settling in the United States, and for whom happiness appears to be fleeting. And in the third, it is the guilt-ridden Amir, who – coming full circle – has embarked on a personal quest to redeem his past inaction or misdeeds.
Assef is the primary antagonist of the novel, though at times – especially in the beginning – Amir and his decisions are treated with contempt. Coming from a well-to-do family, even if his father Baba is often critical and only Baba’s closest friend Rahim Khan is supportive of Amir’s writing aspirations, Amir abuses his power and privilege. The violence Assef inflicts may be more physical, and in fact grows to be more despicable as the novel progresses, but Amir’s self-centredness leads him to do selfish things too. They may be some sympathy as a result of circumstances, though he is recognised as a coward and as a brat.
Yet is also this weaknesses which presents an opportunity for Amir to redeem his guilt. The spectre of his past never quite leaves him, and without giving away details which are central to the novel, Amir does what is perceived to be right in the concluding chapters. In this vein, the plot is a straightforward one with few red herrings, and key details – such as Amir’s marriage to Soraya Taheri and their subsequent discoveries, the fate of Ali in Kabul, Afghanistan, as well as Assef’s bullying ways and persistent belief that the Pashtuns are superior to the Hazaras – provide clues or foreshadow what happens subsequently.
All things considered, the novel is a heartwarming read, and even one’s perspective of and feelings for Amir – with all his shortcomings – changes over time. The first part establishes the reasons for Amir’s guilt, while the second part is the segue linking the first to the final part, in which redemption is earned. All three parts, in particular the first and third, are tied together by the symbols of the kite, competitive kite fighting, and the role of the kite runner. The tear-inducing moments are ubiquitous, and they do not disappoint.