The Kite Runner takes place in the heart of Kabul, Afghanistan in the 1970s and tells the story of an extraordinary friendship between two excellent kite runners, a wealthy 12-year-old named Amir and the son of their family servant named Hassan. Amir, now a middle-aged man, recounts a compelling tale of friendship, betrayal, and atonement set against the horrific events of a fateful winter in 1975, the brutal war that ensues, and his courageous journey to mend shattered connections and liberate himself from the chains of guilt.
Narrated by 12-year-old Amir, “The Kite Runner” unfolds in Kabul, where Amir lives in a lavish mansion with his father, Baba, and their servants, Ali and Hassan, who live in a small nearby hut. Amir and Hassan, despite their differing social backgrounds, share a close bond, having grown up together, playing, reading, and cherishing their friendship.
Hassan serves as both Amir’s helper and protector, confronting bullies who mock their friendship. Amir, perceiving himself as weaker, admires Hassan’s courage and strength. This deepens Amir’s jealousy of his father’s preference for Hassan, evident in lavish gifts and arranging cleft lip surgery. Amir sometimes belittles Hassan, underscoring his lack of education compared to his own.
One day, Amir and Hassan are targeted by a gang of bullies, led by Assef, while playing outside. Hassan’s skill with a slingshot scares them away, leaving Amir in relief. Amir enjoys telling Hassan alternative or made-up stories, sparking Hassan’s enthusiasm for imaginative tales. This encourages Amir to start writing his own stories. Once, Amir offers to read one of his stories to his father, Baba, who appears uninterested. However, Amir’s friend Rahim Khan appreciates his creative work and predicts Amir’s potential as a remarkable writer, leaving an encouraging note.
In the winter of 1975, anticipation fills the town for an upcoming kite tournament. Amir’s Baba expects him to win, which both motivates and unnerves Amir. On tournament day, the skies teem with kites, and the streets are crowded with onlookers. Despite Amir’s nervousness, Hassan’s encouragement spurs him on. Amir and Hassan secure the last kite, defeating a formidable blue one. In this moment, as Hassan readies to retrieve the final kite, he utters the powerful words, “For you, a thousand times over.”
As night falls, Amir searches for Hassan and finally finds him being tormented by Assef and his two friends. Hassan asserts that the blue kite rightfully belongs to Amir due to his fair victory in the competition. Amir, hidden in the shadows, witnesses Hassan being assaulted and raped while defending Amir’s kite. Overwhelmed with the desire to protect Hassan as he has protected him, Amir instead flees with tears in his eyes. When Amir returns home and tells Hassan he was looking for him, Hassan remained silent and hands him the kite. Amir rushes to his father, still holding the kite, and sobs in his father’s arms.
Ridden with guilt, Amir frames Ali and Hassan for theft, causing them to leave the family, despite Baba’s forgiveness. In 1981, the Soviet invasion forces Amir and his father to flee to California, where they face a stark change in circumstances. Amir studies writing at a university, while his father works at a gas station. To make ends meet, they sell goods at a local flea market frequented by Afghan expatriates. At the market, Amir meets Soraya, General Taheri’s daughter from Kabul, and embarks on a romantic relationship despite Soraya’s complex past.
Baba is diagnosed with cancer but refuses treatment, asking Amir to keep it a secret to avoid pity. Amir asks for Soraya’s hand in marriage from General Taheri, and they marry. Soraya moves in and cares for Baba until his passing. After his death, many people came to pay respect, acknowledging Baba’s past help. Amir finds solace in Soraya during this time. They later moved to Fremont. Amir’s writing gets noticed, and his first book is published. They attempt to have a child but face fertility challenges despite medical assistance.
Amir receives a call from Rahim Khan, who’s gravely ill and wants to see him. Amir agrees and flies to Pakistan. When he arrives, he finds Rahim Khan frail. They discuss how Rahim Khan convinced Hassan and his wife Farzana to move into Amir’s old mansion, where Hassan rebuilt and cared for the place. Later, Hassan’s wife gave birth to a baby named Sohrab. Rahim also reports to Amir how the Taliban took over the place after the Soviets withdrew and how they massacred Hazaras.
Rahim Khan gives Amir a photo of Hassan and his son Sohrab, along with a letter expressing Hassan’s desire for Amir to return to their old home in Kabul. This letter was written six months ago, before Hassan and his wife were killed defending their house from the Taliban. Amir is devastated by the news. Rahim then reveals that Hassan is Amir’s half-brother, initially angering Amir, but Rahim explains Baba’s decision to keep it a secret. Rahim asks Amir to go to Afghanistan to rescue Sohrab from an orphanage, but Amir is reluctant due to his career and family. After persuasion, Amir finally agrees.
Amir agrees to travel to his homeland with Farid, a man Rahim introduced. He arrives in a place that feels unfamiliar and seeks the orphanage where Sohrab was meant to be. However, he discovers that a Taliban official had taken Sohrab a month earlier. Amir meets the official, who summons Sohrab, revealing the boy’s obvious signs of abuse. The official turns out to be Assef and assaults Amir with brass knuckles until Sohrab intervenes, shooting Assef in the eye with a slingshot. They escape, and Amir recuperates in Pakistan.
Amir extends an invitation for Sohrab to join him in the U.S., but adoption hurdles arise. Soraya manages to secure an American visa for Sohrab. Unfortunately, Amir discovers Sohrab attempting suicide in a hotel bathroom, causing him to become mute and withdrawn. Despite Amir and Soraya’s earnest efforts to communicate with him, Sohrab remains silent for months after their arrival in California.
One day, they visit a park where Afghans are flying kites. Amir buys a kite, and they engage in a kite-fighting competition, eliciting a smile from Sohrab. Seeing this smile rekindles hope in Amir’s heart. Amir runs the kite for him.
Author Khaled Hosseini writes in the first person, from the point of view of the protagonist, Amir. Amir’s narrative voice is analytical and self-reflective, providing a window into his adolescent and adult musings. Hosseini’s writing is distinguished by the vividness of its descriptions of both the cultural setting of Kabul, Afghanistan, and the character’s inner struggles and motivations.
The novel spans two time periods, beginning in 2001 with Amir thinking back on the events of the 1970s. Hosseini skillfully weaves a story about Amir’s development and the long-term effects of his decisions through the character’s internal monologue. This emotionally charged masterpiece not only reflects Amir’s life, but also how the lives of all Afghans have been altered by the war and the rule of the Taliban.
Who is the book most likely to appeal to?
“The Kite Runner” boasts a captivating narrative style that masterfully immerses the reader in the story’s world. Khaled Hosseini’s writing is rich in intricate details, painting a vivid picture of Kabul, Afghanistan, and the characters’ lives. His ability to evoke emotions and create a sense of place keeps the reader engaged from the opening pages to the poignant conclusion.
However, it’s important to note that the novel delves into weighty subject matter, which may prove challenging for some readers. Issues of racism, the backdrop of war, moral ambiguity, and instances of sexual assault are woven into the narrative. These themes add depth and complexity to the story, but they also make “The Kite Runner” a more emotionally and thematically intense read. Thus, this novel is not recommended for beginners or for those who want to read to escape the reality of life.
In essence, “The Kite Runner” is not a light or simple story. It confronts the reader with the harsh realities of life and the moral dilemmas that individuals face. While its engaging narrative style and intriguing plot make it a compelling read, it may be best suited for readers who are already familiar with more complex and thought-provoking narratives. Those who appreciate literary works that challenge them to contemplate profound issues and explore the human condition will find “The Kite Runner” a rewarding and impactful choice.
The Kite Runner has left an indelible mark on my heart, a story that will forever resonate within me. Its characters are like old friends, intricately brought to life, and the settings evoke a sense of cherished childhood nostalgia. Amir and Hassan’s experiences have seamlessly merged with my own, becoming a cherished part of my literary journey. What truly captivates me is the authenticity of the character growth— a genuine and cathartic journey that adds depth to this unforgettable tale. Lastly, the richness of Afghan culture in the novel and its cherished bygone eras adds a richness that makes the story even more captivating. The Kite Runner is a gem that evokes powerful emotions and leaves readers contemplating its themes long after the final page.