I'm an avid reader, and it's not everyday I read a book with a story line that leaves a lasting impression on me (in fact, I can't even remember the title of the book I read before Kite Runner).
This is a powerful story about an Afghani who immigrated to the U.S. and is sharing his life story, going all the way back to his childhood in the 70's before the Russians invaded Afghanistan, when there was peace in that country, and a degree of freedom that will, perhaps, never exist again (at least in our lifetime).
Nevertheless, the caste system was rife, with the Pushtans being the elites and the Hazaras being their servants and considered the "scum" of society.
The story is told by Amir, a Pushtan, whose dad was a successful businessman, and is centered on his friendship with Hassan, the son of his father's servant - a Hazara. While growing up, they were like best friends, although they both understood their place in society. At the age of 12, Amir watched as the neighborhood bully sodomized Hassan, and he did nothing to help him. Aside from the political turmoil that affected Amir's life, this single event forever changed his life, defining his character, and setting off a chain of events that he would later regret.
I don't want to give away the plot, but this is one book I would highly recommend because the story is told with bluntness and a reality that makes it hard to believe that it's a novel, not a memoir. There are many scenes that are difficult to read due to their graphic nature, and there are so many tragedies that by the end of the book, all you can do is sigh in relief because you feel you can't handle one more tragedy. There are plenty of surprises in the plot too and this makes it that much better.
One of my greatest pet peeves with many novels is the "happily ever after" way in which the author chooses to end his/her story. There is nothing happy about the way this book ends, just a glimmer of hope. Rightly so too, because you really can't take two big tragedies like rape and war and sugar coat them because the effects on people are real and unfortunate.
Then comes the "controversial" movie. If what the family of the 12-year-old actor is saying is the truth (and I bet it is), then the film makers ought to be ashamed of themselves for lying to the family and cajoling the boy to act out the rape scene with the promise to take it out later. Of course if you take out the rape scene, then the movie doesn't make much sense since it is central to the plot.
The movie was slated for release in November, but it has now been pushed to December with the promise to take the actor and his family out of Afghanistan until next spring when the hype surrounding the movie dies. I'm not sure I like the way the film makers handled this. They should have been more forthcoming during casting in the first place and made full disclosure to the family about the content of the movie before the boy signed the contract. I'm not comfortable with the idea of uprooting a family from their home, especially since they'll still go back, and people may not be as forgetful as you would hope.