Last Reviewed on May 19, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1287
The story moves forward to the 1980s and to Fremont, California, where Baba and Amir settled two years ago. Although Baba loved the idea of America, he has found it hard to adjust to the drastically different culture and is forced to work in a gas station to make ends meet. One day Baba overturns a magazine rack in a store because the owner asked to see his ID card when he tried to pay with a check. Amir understands American customs better than his father does and tells Baba that they have to ask for ID in the US, but he still feels a strong desire to explain that Afghanistan had a more trusting culture.
In the summer of 1983, Amir graduates from high school. Baba takes Amir out for dinner that night and then to a bar. As a present, he gives Amir a car, an old Ford Gran Torino.
Amir later tells Baba that he wants to study creative writing. Baba disapproves, as he believes it would be a worthless pursuit and not lead to any significant prospects.
In the summer of 1984, Amir turns twenty-one. Baba purchases a Volkswagen van, and they begin selling goods at the San Jose flea market. The flea market is a hub of Afghan culture and, for Baba, a welcome reminder of the country he so loves. Amir is introduced to General Taheri and enchanted by the general’s daughter, Soraya. Baba is reluctant to gossip about Soraya, but after some persuasion, he tells Amir that she was involved with a man, and things went very badly. She has not had any suitors since. But Amir does not care, and that night he falls asleep thinking about his “Swap Meet Princess.”
After nearly a year of longing for Soraya, Amir finally approaches her under the guise of looking for her father. He asks Soraya what she is reading, but he is very aware that their talking may become a topic of gossip for the Afghan community. He learns that Soraya dreams of being a teacher after being inspired by teaching an illiterate servant to read.
One day Amir brings Soraya one of his own stories, but just as she is about to begin reading it, General Taheri appears. Soraya is forced to hand the story to the general, which he discards in the bin. He gives Amir a firm warning about the inappropriateness of his visits.
Amir has little time to dwell on this, as Baba becomes ill. He is diagnosed with lung cancer but refuses all palliative treatment.
Baba’s health declines rapidly, and one day at the flea market, he has a seizure and is rushed to the hospital. Amir asks Baba for one “last fatherly duty”—to ask General Taheri for Soraya’s hand in marriage. General Taheri gives his consent, but before accepting, Soraya insists on telling Amir about her past. When she was eighteen, she ran away with an Afghan man. She asks Amir if he still wants to marry her knowing this. Amir admits that her sexual history does bother him a little but says that nothing could change his desire to marry her.
Amir and Baba go to the Taheris’ house for the traditional ceremony of “giving word,” and Amir and Soraya’s wedding is hastened because of Baba’s illness. Baba spends his life savings of $35,000 on the wedding ceremony, including an Afghan banquet hall, rings, and a tuxedo for Amir. Amir remembers snapshots from the wedding day, such as him and Soraya being seated around a table, dressed in green and surrounded by relatives. During the ceremony, they are covered by a veil but can stare at each other’s reflections in a mirror. It is here that Amir tells Soraya he loves her for the first time, making her blush.
When Baba dies, a myriad of mourners attend his funeral, all with unique stories about how Baba helped shape their lives. Amir struggles to think of his identity outside that of being “Baba’s son.”
As Amir and Soraya never had an engagement, he knows very little about her family. He learns that Soraya’s mother, Jamila, was once known for being a wonderful singer, but the general stopped her singing in public when they married. Soraya tells Amir that on the night her father brought her home from her elopement, he arrived with a gun. When she came home, she discovered that her mother had suffered a stroke due to stress. The general then forced Soraya to cut off all her hair.
That summer, Amir is accepted to San Jose State as an English major, and Soraya attends as an Education major a year later. Amir also writes his first novel and secures a publishing deal. During this time, Amir and Soraya start trying to conceive a child. After a year of trying, their doctor suggests adoption. When Amir and Soraya share this idea with General Taheri, however, he is unreceptive. Amir wonders if their infertility is atonement for what he did to Hassan.
It is June 2001, and Amir has just received a phone call from Rahim Khan, who has become very sick. He has asked Amir to visit him in Pakistan, and Amir tells Soraya that he must go there. The couple are living in San Francisco, and Amir drives to Golden Gate Park and takes a walk along the lake. He spots a man who is playing with his young son and notices a pair of kites in the sky. Amir keeps thinking of what Rahim Khan said to him: “Come. There is a way to be good again.” It confirms what Amir has long suspected—that Rahim Khan knew Amir’s secret all along.
That night Amir lies in bed with Soraya and thinks about how they used to make love before kissing and talking about the possibility of a baby. They still make love, but Amir confesses that there is now a “futility” to the act, and he believes Soraya feels the same way. That night, Amir dreams of Hassan running through the snow, shouting, “For you, a thousand times over.” A week later, Amir leaves for Pakistan.
Amir lands in Peshawar, Pakistan, where he is driven by Farid, a “sweaty little man” who talks of the travesty that has befallen Afghanistan. They enter “Afghan town.” It is a place of great poverty, full of carpet shops, tiny restaurants, and dirty children selling cigarettes.
Amir thinks about the last time he saw Rahim Khan before he and Baba left Kabul. Rahim Khan and Baba had embraced each other and cried. They stayed in touch, but Amir has not spoken to Rahim Khan since after Baba’s death. When Amir arrives, he thinks that Rahim Khan looks like a “thing made of skin and bones.” Amir tells him about his marriage to Soraya and his success as a novelist. Rahim Khan simply smiles and says he never doubted Amir’s talent.
Rahim Khan began living in Baba’s old house in 1981, but when the Northern Alliance took over Kabul, a series of fights between different Afghan factions broke out, and civilians’ homes and lives were destroyed. The Afghan people were initially relieved when the Taliban took over, as they hoped it would mark an end to the fighting.
Rahim Khan coughs and spits blood into a handkerchief. He is nearing the end of his life. He tells Amir that he was not alone for all those years in Baba’s house: Hassan was there, too. Rahim Khan has brought Amir to Pakistan to do something very important, but before he reveals what this is, he wants to tell him about Hassan.
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