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5 Books like The Kite Runner: Regrets and Redemption

Jo Ward itcherOften referred to as a modern classic, ‘The Kite Runner’ is fundamentally a coming of age novel, but with the added depth of the cultural background to add multiple other layers to it. Finding other books with similar multiple dimensions was not easy, but I hope that in my choices I’ve found a few books like The Kite Runner. I’ve selected ‘In the Country of Men’, ‘The Hero’s Walk’, ‘Bitter Fruit’, ‘Everything Good Will Come’ and ‘Purple Hibiscus’. ~ Jo Ward

Society’s Influence

‘The Kite Runner’ is both a portrayal of an individual and of a society. More specifically, it is a study of how that society affects that individual and the choices they make. But it is the quality of the writing that really makes this book – finding some to live up to it was not easy. I hope I’ve managed.

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Books Similar to ‘The Kite Runner’…

‘In the Country of Men’ (Hisham Matar, 2006)

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The first of my choices for books similar to ‘The Kite Runner’ has some striking similarities. Suleiman, nine years old, lives in Libya. It is 1979 and Gadaffi is in power. Life is not straightforward – why is his father apparently standing in the market place and pretending not to recognise him when he should be away on business? Why does his best friend’s father disappear, only to reappear on television under interrogation?

This is not a comprehensive account of life in Gadaffi’s Libya but it does show the confusion of a nine-year old boy. And it shows how that confusion produces some terrible consequences which Suleiman will have to learn to live with, in a manner very reminiscent of ‘The Kite Runner’.

This is not as beautifully written but has many of the same themes running through it.

Similarity Match: 90%
A child is caught up in events beyond his comprehension and has to live with the consequences of his actions.

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‘Everything Good Will Come’ (Sefi Atta, 2001)

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1971 and Nigeria is under military rule, but the politics are irrelevant to Enitan who is more caught up with the day to day happenings in her life. Specifically, her friendship with Sheri, the girl next door. But Nigeria is a society with strict limitations for women – limitations that the two girls face in different ways.

Like ‘The Kite Runner’, this is a book about a friendship first and foremost, and like ‘The Kite Runner’, Enitan witnesses a violent act against her friend, but in this case it doesn’t define her or have such far-reaching ramifications.

There’s no real ‘plot’ other than that of life and growing up but it’s a great insight into life in Nigeria in the early 1970s.

Similarity Match: 80%
Two young friends have to find their way through events and the expectations of a hierarchical society into adulthood.

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‘Purple Hibiscus’ (Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie, 2003)

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Probably my favourite book like ‘The Kite Runner’. Fifteen year old Kambili lives with a very strict Catholic father, who is a pillar of his community. At home however, he is a tyrant. When circumstances mean that Kambili and her brother have to stay with their Aunt Ifeoma for a while, a whole new world opens up to them.

This is partly a story about a country at a key point in it’s history, as is ‘The Kite Runner’ – in this case, post-colonial Nigeria. The central event which acts as a catalyst is not one shocking one however, but a series of incidences which send Kambili home from her aunt’s with a different attitude to when she arrived.  

It’s not a comfortable read, but it is a superb one – that much it definitely has in common with ‘The Kite Runner’!

Similarity Match: 75%
Like ‘The Kite Runner’, told from the perspective of the child but here with no regrets, nothing to apologise for, just a growth in understanding.

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If You Like ‘The Kite Runner’, You Will Like…

If coming-of-age stories aren’t your thing, if you prefer narrators who understand the contexts in which they operate and the implications or consequences of their actions, then you might prefer the following.

‘The Hero’s Walk’ (Anita Rau Badami, 2000)

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Sripathi’s life is not what he wanted it to be. He wanted to be ordinary, with a good job and a happy family. He did not want to live with his sister, mother and a wife and son he barely has a relationship with. He is however proud of his daughter Maya, so when she marries a Canadian student, Sripathi is angry and cuts her out of his life.

And then he receives the worst kind of news – Maya has been killed in a car crash. She has left behind a seven year old daughter, Nandana. Nandana is now heading to India, to live with the family she has never met in a country she does not know.

How will Sripathi cope with this lost little girl, and will she offer him a new hope?

‘The Hero’s Walk’ is about regrets and redemption, although unlike ‘The Kite Runner’ it is all bound up with family relationships rather than childhood friendships. But it is beautifully written, and the characters are every bit as rounded and believable as those in ‘The Kite Runner’.

Not a coming of age story, but still a story of relationships, regrets, and the chance to make amends.

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‘Bitter Fruit’ (Achmat Dangor, 2001)

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One violent incident nearly twenty years ago is brought to the forefront again when Silas Ali bumps into the police officer who brutally raped his wife.

Set in post-apartheid South Africa, this is the story of how a family learnt to live with the legacy of violence, and how easily it can all fall apart again.

Like ‘The Kite Runner’, it is also the story of one country at a key point in it’s recent history as well as a study of how the culture at the time affects those who live there. But mostly it’s a story about the legacy of violence, and the impact it has on those who live through it and those who come after.

A key event is central to the shaping of a family, rather than an individual, but setting it against a troubled backdrop is very reminiscent of ‘The Kite Runner’.

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Crossing the Line

Khaled Hosseini has written a powerful, if not cheerful, book about life in Afghanistan which gave readers a fresh insight into a nation not often represented in English literature. The other writers I’ve chosen also have something to say about their countries and societies.

What books have you read that you’d recommend that shine a light on society?

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