Update: revisiting this review a couple years later, this book has not aged well in my mind. Mostly what I remember is the melodrama and emotional manipulation, the blatant use of the friend's lousy life to promote the privileged protagonist's character development, and that deadly boring middle section with the flea markets. Taking it down to 3 for now.
My original review:
I was amazed by A Thousand Splendid Suns, but only later got around to reading Hosseini's first book, The Kite Runner. This is a solid read--it's a page-turner for sure, and technically well-written. The first part of the book, dealing with the protagonist's boyhood in pre-war Kabul, is absolutely fascinating on so many levels--his difficult relationships with his father and his best friend/servant Hassan, the psychological complexity of the main characters, the depiction of Afghan culture and day-to-day life, the bits about Afghan history seen through the eyes of a young boy... it's all really, really good.
The book loses some steam after that, when Amir moves to the U.S. This part isn't bad--it's worth reading for the depiction of the lives of Afghan refugees in the States alone--but the tension and emotional resonance present in the first part of the book largely dissipates at this point. And the last third, taking place mostly in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan... a bit contrived perhaps, but necessary for the resolution of the story.
Overall, this is certainly a worthy read. For me it didn't have the same emotional resonance as A Thousand Splendid Suns, and the plot meandered a bit by comparison, but that's no reason not to read it. The pages fly by, the main characters are three-dimensional and it's a look into a world most Americans know far less about than we should--so by all means, read it.