The Kite Runner Book summary

Khaled Hosseini




The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini’s debut novel was turned into an award-winning feature film soon after its publication. The Kite Runner is a tragic novel about a friendship between two boys from different ethnic groups in Afghanistan. The story highlights the story of Afghanistan from a native man’s perspective beginning in the 1970s and up until the early 2000s. The book has been touted for its tragic plot as well as its rich and detailed portrait of Afghani culture. The Kite Runner spent several weeks on New York’s best-seller list and catapulted Khaled Hosseini into the life of a successful author that then led to other books such as A Thousand Splendid Suns, and And the Mountains Echoed.


Plot Summary

Amir receives a call from his father’s old friend, Rahim Khan, who asks him to come to see him in Pakistan, promising him a way to be good again. Amir takes a walk in a park in San Francisco and looks back at his life in Afghanistan as he considers Rahim Khan’s proposal. The focus of his recollection is his childhood friend, Hassan. Amir’s father, Baba, was an important person in the city of Kabul, and they lived in one of the most beautiful houses in the city. Amir’s mother had belonged to the nobility and taught Farsi at the university, but she had died giving birth to Amir. In those years, Amir had thought his father hated him because he had killed his mother. Their household consisted of Ali, the family servant who had grown up with Baba, and Ali’s son, Hassan. It was said that Hassan’s mother had been a great beauty, and she could not stand being the wife of a man as ugly as Ali. She had eloped a few days after giving birth to Hassan, and so it was that Hassan and Amir grew up without their mother’s together. Amir felt like no one understood him like Hassan, but he struggled to share his father’s attention and affection with Hassan. Rahim Khan was Baba’s business partner and close friend, who was often very encouraging of Amir’s writing, far more than Baba had ever been.

Hassan and Ali belonged to the ethnic group of Hazaras, who were heavily discriminated against by the majority group of Afghanistan, the Pashtuns. Amir often saw them being teased for their Hazara facial features. He recalls the time when Assef had nearly beaten him with his brass knuckles for always being with Hassan, but Hassan had forced Assef to leave them alone with the threat of a slingshot. Assef had promised them revenge, and he had fulfilled that promise on the night of the Kite tournament. Amir won that tournament mainly for the approval of his father, which was always so sparing for him, and Hassan had run the last kite that Amir had overcome. Amir had then witnessed Hassan being cornered by Assef and his friends. They wanted the kite, but Hassan refused them, so Assef raped him. Amir could not bring himself to intervene, and he could not bring himself to talk to Hassan about it. He needed the kite for his relationship with his father, which did improve but only for a little while. Hassan grew distant after that night, and though Hassan tried to rekindle their relationship, Amir could not stand the guilt of what he had allowed to take place. He decides to frame Hassan for theft, and instead of fighting the accusation, Hassan accepts it for Amir’s sake. Baba forgives Hassan, but Ali insists that they can no longer remain there and Amir realizes that Hassan knew Amir had witnessed what Assef had done to him, and he had told Ali about it as well. Their departure breaks Baba’s heart.

Amir and Baba are forced to leave Afghanistan when the Russians invade, and they relocate to America. They begin building life anew as Baba takes a job as a mechanic, and Amir pursues High school, then goes to college for creative writing. Though several years have passed since they left Afghanistan, Amir and Baba still think about Hassan. Baba is found to have cancer in its terminal stages, but before his death, Baba witnesses Amir’s wedding to Soraya. After Baba’s death, Amir gains success as a writer, and the couple being to entertain thoughts of a child, alas they have to give up on the matter as they are unable to conceive. Amir thinks that this situation is a consequence of what he had done to Hassan. In the present, he decides that he must go to Pakistan and see Rahim Khan, who also happens to be on the verge of death. Rahim Khan informs Amir that he had retrieved Hassan a few short years after Amir and Baba had left Kabul. He had found Hassan married to a woman who was expecting their first child, but Ali had already passed away. Hassan had cried the whole night upon learning of Baba’s death and relocated back to the house the following day to ensure that Amir does not return to an uncared-for home in Kabul. While they were staying in Kabul, Hassan had reunited with his mother who had returned to seek his forgiveness and become the father to a beautiful boy named Sohrab. Hassan’s mother passed away when the child was four years old, and Rahim Khan lauds Hassan as a father. He recalls the day the Taliban had come to Kabul, and the people had celebrated the expectant peace. Hassan had been worried about the fate of the Hazaras and he had been right for the Taliban had massacred thousands of Hazaras in Mazar in 1998.

Rahim Khan was forced to travel to Pakistan for his sickness, and in his absence, Hassan and his wife were executed by the Taliban. Rahim Khan wanted Amir to go to Kabul and retrieve Sohrab so that he could have a bright future, but Amir did not want to endanger himself. Rahim Khan reminds Amir that he knows why Amir will do it, and he further gives evidence to the fact that Hassan had not been Ali’s son but rather Baba’s son. Amir is furious at everyone who had kept such a secret between Hassan and Amir. He goes to Kabul, finds it to be utterly unrecognizable, and locates the orphanage where Sohrab had been last seen. He discovers from the director that Sohrab had been sold to a Talib leader nearly a month ago. He meets with the Talib leader, and the man turns out to be Assef, who wants to fight Amir for the boy. Amir is beaten nearly to death by Assef, but Sohrab shoots a metal ball into Assef’s eye with a slingshot and they escape to Pakistan. Amir tells Sohrab the true nature of their relationship and begins to make arrangements for moving him to the US. The process is complicated and Sohrab attempts to kill himself rather than going to an orphanage. He survives and Amir adopts him. Sohrab remains very quiet for the first year, but on the day of the Afghan New Year, Amir shows him how to fly kites and Sohrab smiles for the first time in a long time. 

  • Author(s)

    Khaled Hosseini
  • Publication date

    May 29, 2003

  • Language


  • Classification

    Literary Realism

  • Pages



Afghanistan, Taliban


Riverhead Books

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