The Kite Runner
is the kind of novel that begs for a sappy movie adaptation. A story about two kids who just can't seem to forgive each other? Pass me the Kleenex.
One problem that cripples The Kite Runner
is its caricatures, err, characters. The Taliban dude is about as one-dimensional as your typical cartoon villain, and the main characters struggle for years over an irrelevant 'fight' that could have been solved by ten seconds of level-headed thinking, a quick phone call, or both. Whatever skill Hosseini had with the pen is further obscured by the novel's weak settings ('Afghanistan' is about all we're going to get here) and contrived third-act plot. (I'm not going to cite spoilers here, but the last 50 pages are designed to tug at heartstrings in rudimentary fashion. It's lowest-common-denominator, capital-E Emotional stuff.) Entire chunks of the novel seemed inauthentic—they needed both a good editor and a sense of purpose.
One just wasn't enough for Hosseini—he's written another novel with the same setting and same weakly constructed characters, but this time they're girls. Same story, different gender.
I used the word 'inauthentic' to describe some passages a bit earlier, and now that I think about it, this might be the word that best describes the whole of The Kite Runner
. The setting doesn't feel like Afghanistan so much as it feels like some American's conception of Afghanistan or perhaps something you'd see in a Hollywood film. (For the record, I am aware of Hosseini's heritage and country of birth, but his vague writing style obscures these.) The characters don't feel nearly as real as they do in the cinema of the Middle East. (As a comparison, watch one of Asghar Farhadi's films—real, authentic conflict in a Middle Eastern setting.) If I didn't know better, I'd say that The Kite Runner
was an American work. And it's definitely written for an American audience. That's not an intrinsic problem, but it doesn't help much in this context.