Bookmarked Musings: On reading Khaled Hosseini’s books By Riddhi Mistry


After about two months of non-fiction, self-help reads, I decided to go for fiction, a novel, a story that I can drown myself in. I decided to do a little readathon a few days ago and let the book completely hypnotize me and let it have my complete attention. After all, it deserves every bit of it because it had been a long time since I’d lost myself in a fictional world. 

And yet, only a few books and few writers have this power, something that seems to come almost naturally to them, this inexplicable talent to drown the reader in the book. You are lucky enough to have found a book that does that to you. I consider myself to be extremely fortunate to have got to read a few books that give me the same feeling. One of those and the most prominent of those have to be Khaled Hosseini’s books. 

“But it’s better to be hurt by the truth than to be comforted with a lie.” 

– Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner 

That’s the thing about Khaled Hosseini’s books and his writing. You have to be ready to face the truth, no beating around the bush here. Having read two of his three novels, I knew this pretty well. I knew what I was getting myself into when I picked up ‘The Kite Runner’, or maybe I thought I knew…

The first book I read from him 

Khaled Hosseini’s books hold a special place in my heart. I still remember the first book I read from him ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’, almost 2 years ago. That year, the winter of 2018, I consider it to be one of the most painful years of my existence. For it was the pain, not that life had given to me, but that I had given to myself. I was my worst enemy, the result of which I saw the world as my worst enemy. And I couldn’t have read ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ at a more appropriate time. 

I remember carrying that book everywhere. It was almost second nature to me as if it was a part of me. I didn’t have time to read, so I invented time to read. I read while waiting for the bus, I read on the bus, I read beneath the scorching sun. I lost myself in the book. I was reading it without even reading it because it was the only thing I would think about the entire day. The book and its characters, its people had power over my mind. 

The relatability in his books

I don’t exactly know what attracts me to his books. Maybe it’s the relatability I feel when I read his books. The relatability, the eerie similarity between Afghanistan and India, as if they’re two circles that once overlapped and with time, are slowly drifting away from each other, a small portion left, intersecting the two. I love to spot that small portion in his books. And that draws me closer to his books. To notice how similar we are, to realize that our ancestors would’ve been the same is what makes me read these books more. You will feel a sense of connectedness when you will occasionally come across a word that is familiar, similar to something you speak, that has just changed the way it’s pronounced, having travelled thousands of miles. 

It’s funny how these words in languages, these cultural practices have always been similar, they’re just adopted, maybe disguised by the people so that they’re not identified as familiar anymore, so that we’re pulled further away by our differences. But that’s the thing – his books have the opposite effect.

For instance, in moments of extreme happiness, when I was scared, almost frightened for what’s to come, it felt good to know that I am not the only one, that there are people who have felt this way.

“I’m so afraid. Because I am so profoundly happy. Happiness like this is frightening…They only let you be this happy if they’re preparing to take something from you.” 

– Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner

You not only learn about their culture, but you also spot many similarities. They’re just small getaways to a world, a world that finally sees and realizes how similar we all are. That’s the only aim of literature – to bring people closer. To see how the world is just a big book, while all we are is different pages of the same story. The world is constantly telling us how different we all are, but look closely and you will find the same fears, the same hopes, the same insecurities.  

How we’re all striving, longing for a better future. And that there are people who, just like grass growing through the cracks of concrete, strive to make this world a better place. Just like the father who fought for his daughter’s education, when he said, “Marriage can wait, education cannot.”

These books, all three of them, have somehow appeared in my life at the time I needed them the most. For instance, in moments when I find myself questioning the justice of the Universe, of how it is kind to one and unkind to another, I remind myself of those people, who, even during the worst of times, somehow manage to have unwavering hope. I found solace in seeing how “people find a way to survive, to go on”.

The people in his books

The people in these books, they’re not mere characters of a fictional world. Sometimes fiction teaches you more about life than any non-fiction book ever can. Sometimes in stories, you will find a mirror between the pages, reflecting your emotions. The people in his books, they speak to you. And you to them. You will find yourself thinking about them frequently.

A Thousand Splendid Suns will always hold a special place in my heart. Perhaps because it is about women and their struggle for survival, written commendably. I never thought women’s struggles could ever be seen, let alone understood by others, yet the writer has succeeded in doing so, and how effortlessly! 

Mariam and Laila will always be the quintessential Afghani women, whose incomparable struggles are long forgotten, whose voices are unheard. I think about them frequently. Maybe by thinking about them, I can begin to comprehend what Afghan women had to go through. I think about what Mariam’s mother had said to her when she was 15, that each snowflake was a sigh heaved by an aggrieved woman somewhere in the world. That all the sighs drifted up the sky, gathered into clouds, then broke into tiny pieces that fell silently on the people below. 

“As a reminder of how people like us suffer,” she’d said. “How quietly we endure all that falls upon us.”

As I read of Mariam, my heart goes out to the 15-year-old girl who had to get married to a 40-year-old man. I think of the countless young girls who are married and sent away, warned beforehand of what life is going to be like from now.

“Learn this now and learn it well. Like a compass facing north, a man’s accusing finger always finds a woman. Always. You remember that, Mariam.”

– Khaled Hosseini, A Thousand Splendid Suns

The people in his books, they speak to you. And you to them. Reading about other people’s sadness has that human effect on us. We see that we’re not alone. That sadness, in all its different forms and variations, is, in a way, the essence of human life. In a way, reading about sadness makes us humble again, makes us human again.

The truth in his books

Afghanistan was a world completely unknown to me. A country that has been long forgotten, and the struggles of whose people are buried away as if some unpleasant, distant dream.

And these novels are the writer’s attempts at reminding the world of what Afghanistan has gone through and that you won’t find a single person there alive who hasn’t lost something. Despite being aware of their fictional nature, we know that these books are the most ravishing examples of Afghanistan’s strength and suffering. 

“There are a lot of children in Afghanistan, but little childhood.”

– Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner

No matter who you are, you will always find something that will make you deeply connect to his books. They have that rare quality that grips you by your eyes until you don’t know who you are, where you are. And hence, you will come out of that book, knowing who you want to be and where you want to be. 

You drift with his writing, feeling what those people in the book feel. Sometimes you won’t even feel anything. But whatever it is, you will be carried by the book, carried away by the book, like the sand is carried away by the wind. I can’t explain that feeling you feel while reading his books. The numbness, the aching heart, the breathlessness, the restlessness, and finally, a sense of acceptance that those characters reflect. 

“And that’s the thing about people who mean everything they say. They think everyone else does too.”

– Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner

You are a quiet spectator, an observer, observing everything. There were some incidents in the book that will make you question humanity. Some instances that you wish you could change, somehow you could change the fate of these people. But you’re powerless, nothing more than an observer. 

Khaled Hosseini removes the curtain covering the true human nature, thus displaying the essence of human nature. You might not like it. You might hate it. You might hate yourself at times because you had a sense of comfort with that curtain, not wanting to reveal what’s on the other side. The inconsistency of all human characters, the humanness that will be in full display, no concealing, no whitewashing, just what it is – displayed. 

Maybe you’ll understand yourself more because you just had a glimpse of what makes you, the key ingredient in the recipe that is human. Perhaps, you’ll discern the world more. Maybe you will accept the world more. Accept it as it is.

I have gone through a myriad of emotions while reading these books. They have made me laugh, they have made me cry, but mostly they have left me in complete awe. They have taught me so much about life and its constituents that I will forever remember. 

“It’s wrong to hurt even bad people. Because they don’t know any better, and because bad people sometimes become good.” 

And I will forever keep reminding myself of how, even multiple wrongs can be set right, how, at the other end of guilt and regret, there is always redemption. 

“There is a way to be good again…”

– Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner 

About the Author

Riddhi Mistry is an engineering undergraduate student, a poet, and an essayist based in India. Not having pursued creative writing educationally didn’t stop her from writing. Riddhi writes creative non-fiction and poetry.

Her work has been considered by Thrush Poetry Journal. She continues to publish her writing online and some of her work can be found here: www.liveinacosmos.blogspot.com and www.instagram.com/liveinacosmos.

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