“The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini is a novel that was published in 2003. The novel was a New York Times Bestseller for over two years and sold over seven million copies in the United States alone.
The novel is set in Kabul, Afghanistan and centers around a young boy named Amir who is friends with a servant boy named Hassan. Amir and Hassan regularly compete in kite-flying tournaments where Hassan is called a “kite runner” because he retrieves lost kites.
One day, Amir stumbles across Hassan being attacked and raped by schoolyard bullies. Amir is so overwhelmed with guilt for not stopping the attack that he frames Hassan for stealing so that his father will get rid of the boy. Soon, the Taliban take over Afghanistan and Amir, and his father is forced to flee to America and rebuild their life from scratch. Eventually, Amir must return to Kabul to find Hassan’s orphaned son and bring him back to the States.
The novel was adapted into a movie of the same name in 2007. The movie was nominated for an Academy Award although it inspired outrage in Afghanistan and the child stars of the movie received death threats and had to be evacuated to America.
The book begins in December of 2001. The narrator, Amir, lives in San Francisco but recalls his childhood in Afghanistan. One particular event when he was 12 years old in 1975, made him who he is. He does not say what the event was. He talks about a call he received from an old friend named Rahim who was asking him to come to Pakistan. He walks around San Francisco and notices people flying kites. This is apt because in his childhood he knew a boy named Hassan who he called the kite runner.
The second chapter began in 1975. Amir and Hassan are friends. They often get up to rebellious antics like shooting walnuts at dogs and climbing trees to look into neighbors houses, but these ideas always come from Amir. Amir and his father, Baba live in a large house in the rich part of Kabul, but Hassan and his father live in a mud hut on the grounds of Amir’s estate. Hassan’s father, Ali is Baba’s servant. Amir’s mother died giving birth to him, but Hassan’s ran away after he was born. Most people thought that Hassan’s parents were an arranged match because they were an unlikely pair.
The soldiers in town often refer to Hassan as Hazara which is a group in the country that are persecuted because they are of Asian descent. Amir is Pashtun. These two groups are usually at odds because the Pashtun suppressed an uprising of the Hazara in the nineteenth century.
Baba is a successful businessman, and there are many outlandish stories about his strength, and his wife was from a royal bloodline. Amir feels responsible for his mother’s death and tries to do everything he can to impress his father. But Amir is only good at artistic pursuits like poetry and reading, things his father does not see as manly. Amir overhears his father talking to his business associate Rahim about how he thinks that Amir is not like other boys and cannot stand up for himself.
Chapter four flashes back to 1933, when Baba and Ali were boys. That same year, Zahir Shah became king of Afghanistan. Ali’s parents were killed in a car accident when he was a child, and Baba’s father took him in. Baba and Ali grew up together but never considered each other friends because of their ethnic differences. Amir says that he does not consider Hassan a “friend” either but that they often play games and read together. Hassan is illiterate, but Amir reads to him from “Rostam and Sohrab” a story about a man finding his lost son. Amir begins writing his own stories based on the story. Amir tries to show the story to his father, but the man does not listen to him. Instead, Rahim takes the story and tells Amir that he is very talented.
One night, when they hear gunfire outside, Hassan and Amir hide in the house. Amir’s narration says that this was the beginning of the end for Afghanistan. The gunshots were part of a coup where the king’s cousin took over. Later, Amir and Hassan are walking when they are attacked by the neighborhood bully, Assef. Assef hates Hassan for being a Hazara. Hassan and Amir manage to get away when Hassan pulls a slingshot on Assef and his gang.
That winter, the boys compete in an annual kite-flying tournament. The tournament is very contentious, and some people even cheat by covering their kite strings in broken glass to cut other strings. Whoever has the last kite flying wins the tournament. When a kite flies away, some boys that are called kite runners run after it. Hassan is the best kite runner.
In 1975, Amir wished to win the tournament because he thinks that it will impress his father. Amir does win the tournament but when his father sees him celebrating and hugging Hassan he motions for them to separate. Hassan runs off to get the other kite. Amir basks in praise of everyone for a while before going to find Hassan. When he finds him, Hassan has been cornered in an alley by Assef and his gang. He has found the kite and Assef want it. Hassan refuses to hand it over. Amir watches from around the corner but doesn’t intervene. The other boys rape Hassan and Amir runs away.
Afterward, Amir spends less time with Hassan out of guilt. Amir stops accepting praise for the kite tournament. Amir eventually asks Hassan to walk with him. They stop under a pomegranate tree, and Amir asks Hassan what he would do if he threw a pomegranate at him. He begins throwing pomegranates and ordering him to fight back. But Hassan won’t. He slams one of the fruits against his head and asks Amir if he’s happy.
That summer, Amir turns thirteen. Baba throws him a lavish party and invites lots of people. Assef arrives at the party and makes Amir uncomfortable. Rahim shows up and tells Amir that he almost married a Hazara girl once but his family would not allow it. He gives Amir a journal to write his stories in. During the party, Hassan is forced to serve drinks to Assef and his friends.
Amir decides that Hassan has to be fired. He hides his watch and some other things under Hassan’s mattress. He tells his father that Hassan stole his things. When Hassan is asked about it, to Amir’s surprise, he admits that he did steal them. Amir realizes that Hassan knows that he saw him get raped and that he is setting him up. Ali says that they must leave even though Baba begs them to stay. Amir watches them leave from the window.
The next chapter abruptly opens with Baba and Amir in the back of a truck on the way to Pakistan. The political situation in the country has gotten too tense, and Baba has decided to leave. The Russians have taken control of the country. After being stopped by Russian soldiers at a checkpoint, the pair has to spend a week in a basement with other escapees.
The pair finally makes it to California. Baba begins working in a gas station, but the adjustment to a new way of life is difficult for him. They stay in America for years and eventually Amir graduates high school. Baba takes him out to dinner to celebrate and gives him an old Ford Gran Torino. Amir confesses to his father that he wants to go to college to study English. Baba objects because he feels that this would be useless but Amir insists.
On the weekends, Baba and Amir purchase things from yard sales and resell them for a profit at flea markets. One day, Baba introduces Amir to a man named General Taheri and his daughter, Soraya. Amir likes the girl and asks his father about her. Baba says that she was once engaged but that it was called off for some reason.
That night Amir falls asleep thinking about the girl. Amir pines over Soraya for a year, seeing her when her father is away. One day, the General returns early and warns Amir away from his daughter. But he soon forgets this when Baba becomes ill with lung cancer. He refuses any treatment and tells Amir not to tell anyone about his illness. Eventually, Baba is taken to the hospital. Afghans from all over the community visit him.
Amir asks if he will ask the General for Soraya’s hand in marriage for him. The General agrees, and Amir and Soraya become engaged. Soraya is pleased, but she tells Amir that she must tell him about her past before they are married. She tells him that she ran away with a man when she was 18 and they lived together for a month. At that point, her father found her and brought her home. Amir is not pleased to hear this, but he still wants to marry her.
The wedding is rushed because Baba is so ill. Amir narrates that all he remembers is sitting on a sofa with Soraya while they were draped in a veil. Soon after the wedding, Baba dies. It is now the late 1980s. Amir begins working on his first novel and publishes it. He and Soraya begin trying to have a baby, but they find out that they cannot conceive. They want to adopt, but the General does not like the idea. Amir and Soraya buy a house in San Francisco.
The narrative skips forward to 2001 after Amir received the call from Rahim. Rahim is ill and wants to see him. Amir tells Soraya that he has to go. Something about the call intrigues Amir as Rahim tells him that there is a way for him to be good again. That night, Amir dreams of Hassan.
Amir travels to Pakistan the next day. Rahim is sickly but he and Amir have tea, and he updates him on what has been happening in his life. After Baba and Amir fled Kabul, Rahim stayed in their house for a while, looking after the place. The city became more and more dangerous, and eventually, the Taliban took over. While they are talking, Rahim is coughing up blood. He tells Amir that he doesn’t expect to live through the summer. He confesses that he asked Amir to see him because he had to tell him something about Hassan.
In 1986, after Baba had been gone for a while, Rahim left his house. He was aging and having trouble keeping up with the house himself. Rahim found Hassan and Hassan’s pregnant wife, Farzana. When Hassan heard that Baba had died, he wept. His father was killed years earlier by a landmine. Hassan and his wife came to live on Baba’s estate with Rahim to help him watch over the house. Later, Farzana gave birth to a stillborn child. She soon became pregnant again. That same month, Sanaubar, Hassan’s missing mother, arrives at the house in ill health. Hassan welcomes her and nurses her back to health. Farzana gives birth to a son named Sohrab. Soon, Sanaubar passes away. In 1996, just as Hassan is teaching Sohrab to fly kites, the Taliban takes over, and the sport is banned.
Rahim tells Amir that a month after he left, Baba’s house was raided by the Taliban. Hassan told them that he was watching the house for a friend, but since he was a Hazara, they called him a liar and shot him and his wife in the head. Sohrab was sent to an orphanage, and the Taliban took over Baba’s house. Rahim knows a couple in Pakistan that is willing to take in Sohrab. Initially, Amir does not want to go get Sohrab, but soon he realizes that it is important to his friend’s memory that he do so. Rahim says that Baba worried that Amir would not be able to stand for anything. He says that he knew that Ali could not have children and that Baba was Hassan’s real father. At this news, Amir shouts at Rahim and leaves.
Amir goes to a tea house to calm down. While there, he considers the evidence that Hassan was Baba’s son and the fact that Baba was so upset when he and Ali left. Amir realizes that he has to retrieve Hassan’s son not just to atone for his sins to Hassan but for Baba’s as well.
Rahim arranges for Amir to be smuggled back into Kabul via a friend. Amir has to dress in an Afghan outfit and wear a fake beard. Amir is surprised and bewildered to be back in his home country after spending 20 years in America. Kabul has changed for the worse. Where there used to be buildings, there are now only smoking piles of rubble. All of the trees are gone, and when Amir makes eye contact with a truck full of men toting guns, Rahim’s friend, Farid warns him that those men are Taliban soldiers and they will take any excuse to kill you.
When Amir reaches the orphanage, the director is initially hesitant to give him any information. Once Amir tells the man that he is Sohrab’s half-uncle he opens up. The orphanage is in bad condition. Once a warehouse for a carpet manufacturer, the building does not have enough beds or blankets, and one child has frozen to death in the winter.
But Sohrab is no longer there. The director tells Amir that every few months, a Taliban official comes and gives him some money and takes one of the children away. Amir shouts at the man for allowing this, but the man confesses that he cannot stand up to the Taliban and that it is the only way that he can afford to feed the children. Last month, the official took Sohrab. He will be at Ghazi Stadium.
The next day, Amir visits Baba’s house. It is intact though some parts have been destroyed. He goes out to the pomegranate tree and remembers when he used to read to Hassan. The next day, he goes to Ghazi Stadium where there is a soccer game going on. The crowd does not cheer, and the field is nothing but dirt. In the middle of the game, Taliban soldiers in red trucks arrive and bring out two adulterers – a man and a woman – for the crowd to throw stones at. Rahim’s friend tells one of the Taliban that he needs to speak to an official and the man agrees.
Amir is brought to a house where the official and a few soldiers come in. One of the soldier’s tears off Amir’s fake beard. They ask him what he is doing in America. He ignores the question and says that he is looking for Sohrab. Sohrab is brought out, and he is wearing a blue silk outfit and mascara. He also has bells strapped around his ankles. The Taliban official asks something that makes Amir realize that the man is Assef, the boy that raped Hassan. Amir tells Assef that he will pay for Sohrab. Assef refuses, saying that he got into the Taliban because he wanted to rid the country of the Hazaras.
Assef tells Amir that he will fight him for Soharb. If Amir manages to survive, he can take the boy and leave. Amir’s narration reveals that he does not remember much of the fight but that he was losing until Sohrab pulled out a slingshot and shot Assef in the eye. After this Amir and Sohrab managed to escape. Amir then fainted, and blurry images of being tended to are all he remembers. When he wakes up, he is in a hospital in Peshawar. Rahim’s friend tells Amir that Rahim has gone, but he left a note telling Amir that the reason Baba was so hard on him was because he couldn’t discipline Hassan like he wanted to.
He soon discovers that the couple that was going to take Sohrab never existed and once he is well he leaves for Islamabad with Sohrab. The abuse that Sohrab has suffered has left him traumatized. He barely speaks, and when he finally opens up to Amir, he confesses that he feels dirty and like he has sinned. Amir tells him that he is innocent. He asks if the boy would like to come and live with him in America. Sohrab is scared that Amir and his wife will tire of him, but he agrees to go to San Francisco.
Unfortunately, Amir discovers that without proof that Sohrab’s parents are dead, adopting him is going to be difficult. He must return to the orphanage for two years while the papers are filed. When Amir tells the boy that he may have to return to the orphanage for a short time, he screams and cries until he falls asleep in Amir’s arms. The next day Amir walks in to discover Sohrab has slit his wrists in the bathtub.
Sohrab is rushed to the hospital, and Amir waits nervously. Eventually, Sohrab recovers, but he is still angry at Amir. Amir tells him they figured out a way to get him into America. Amir and Hassan make it back to San Francisco. A month later, the attacks of September 11th make it so that Afghanistan is all over the news. Amir’s father in law is summoned back to the country for a ministry position. The next year, there is a gathering of Afghans in a park near Amir. He takes his wife and Sohrab.
Amir soon sees some people flying kites and decides to teach Sohrab some of Hassan’s old kite battling tricks. They manage to take out their opponents kite, and Sohrab smiles for the first time in months. Amir runs off to get the kite for Sohrab.
Amir – the main character of the novel. Amir begins the story as a young boy living in Afghanistan before the take over of the Taliban. Amir’s father is wealthy, and thus, Amir’s childhood is very comfortable. The only exposure to poverty he has comes from his friend, Hassan who lives on his estate as a servant. Though Amir and Hassan seem to be friends, Amir considers Hassan as being lower than him. When Hassan is attacked and raped, Amir does not go to his defense. He spends the next twenty years torturing himself for this.
Amir has a tense relationship with his father. Baba is hard to his son, mainly because he is angry with himself for never acknowledging that Hassan is his real son. When Amir is called upon to rescue Hassan’s son, Sohrab from a Kabul orphanage, he realizes that he must do this not only to make up for his failings to Hassan but for his father’s as well.
Over the course of the novel, and especially after he meets Sohrab, Amir grows to be a more caring and kind individual. His time starting over with nothing in America forces him to be humble. In the end, he acknowledges Hassan as his half-brother and raises Sohrab as his son.
Hassan – Amir’s childhood friend. Hassan believes that his mother left the family shortly after he was born and that Ali, Baba’s servant, is his father. Hassan is a kind person and cares for those around him. He believes that Amir is his best friend and does not see the class differences between them as Amir does. After Hassan is raped, his personality briefly changes to be more quiet and introspective to deal with the trauma. When Amir betrays Hassan by framing him for stealing, Hassan is not surprised. He knew that Amir saw him get attacked and that the boy was trying to get rid of him to assuage his guilt.
For many years, Amir does not hear from Hassan. It is revealed that Hassan married and moved back into Baba’s house to help Rahim tend it. He and his wife have a son, and when his mother shows up at the gate of the house, he lets her in and tends to her despite the fact that she left him as a baby. Hassan is eventually killed by the Taliban for being a Hazara, leaving his son an orphan. But a letter that he wrote before he died revealed that he was waiting for Amir to return to him and that he did not hold a grudge.
Baba – Amir’s father. Baba is a successful businessman at the beginning of the book, but circumstances force him to leave Afghanistan with nothing but his son and no money. Baba rebuilds his life in America and has many Afghan friends in their San Francisco community. Toward the end of the novel, it is revealed that Babe was Hassan’s real father and that he resented himself for never claiming the boy even though he was illegitimate.
Khaled Hosseini Biography
Khaled Hosseini was born in Kabul, Afghanistan on March 4th, 1965. The oldest of five children, Hosseini was the son of a diplomat for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a Persian Language Teacher. Hosseini describes his childhood as being “privileged” because his parents were wealthy. In 1970, the family moved to Iran so that his father could work for the Embassy of Afghanistan and when Hosseini was 11, his family moved to Paris. During this time, the Saur Revolution took place, and the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan took power in his home country. Hosseini’s family were not allowed to return to Afghanistan.
They went to the United States to seek political asylum and began living in San Jose, California. At the time, Hosseini was 15 and did not speak English.
In 1984, Hosseini graduated from high school and began attending Santa Clara University from which he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology. The next year he enrolled in the University of California San Diego School of Medicine where he graduated with an M.D in 1993. Hosseini practiced medicine in California for over a decade until he quit to become a writer.
In 2003, Hosseini’s first novel, “The Kite Runner” was published and became a New York Times Bestseller for two years. The novel was later adapted into a movie in which Hosseini had a cameo role. However, the movie received much controversy in Afghanistan for depicting the country in a bad light. The child actors who played the two main characters received death threats and had to be removed from the country. In light of this, Hosseini regrets making the movie.
In 2007, Hosseini released his second novel, “A Thousand Splendid Suns.” Also set in Afghanistan, the novel follows two women and deals with many of the same issues as “The Kite Runner,” such as Afghanistan’s transition into Soviet and then Taliban rule. Hosseini released “And the Mountains Echoed” in 2013, a collection of short stories set in Kabul.
Hosseini currently serves as a Goodwill Envoy for the United Nations. He has started a foundation in his name that works to provide humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan. In 2007, he made a trip back to Afghanistan with the UN. Currently, Hosseini lives in California with his wife, Roya, who is a lawyer and their two children, Haris and Farah.