Chapters 21–25

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Chapter 21

Baba’s home, like everything else in Kabul, is a “picture of fallen splendor.”

Amir hikes up the hill where he used to read stories to Hassan and sees that the carving he made in the tree remains, although it has faded over the years. As Amir takes in the view of the “city of his childhood,” he hears Farid honking his horn. Farid then appears and indicates that they must leave.

The next day, they attend a soccer match at Ghazi Stadium, where the pitch is a mass of dirt, with holes and craters scattered everywhere. At halftime, red pickup trucks appear, and Taliban members unload a man and a woman, both blindfolded, who have been accused of adultery.

The Taliban bury the man and woman up to the neck in the dirt, and the official stones them to death, delighting in the brutality. When the soccer game resumes, Farid tells a guard that they have business with the Taliban official, who agrees to meet with them later that day.

Chapter 22

Farid drives Amir to a grand house in the Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood.

The Taliban official enters, sits down, and instructs one of his guards to rip off Amir’s fake beard. He asks Amir if he enjoyed the display of public justice but laments that Amir could not enjoy the “real show” of 1998. Amir realizes the official is referring to the massacre of Hazaras in Mazar-i-Sharif.

The guards bring in Sohrab, who is wearing a blue silk outfit, with bells strapped around his ankles. Mascara lines his eyelashes. Leering, the Taliban force Sohrab to dance. The official suddenly asks what happened to “old Babalu.” As this was the name Assef used to call Ali, Amir realizes with a jolt that the Taliban official is Assef.

Amir offers to pay for Sohrab, but Assef claims that money is irrelevant to him. Ever since realizing that God is on his side, he has been on a mission to cleanse Afghanistan of Hazaras. As they are about to leave, Assef tells Amir that they have unfinished business.

Assef tells Amir and the guards that only one of them will leave alive, and if Amir defeats him, he can leave. Assef puts on his brass knuckles.

During his fight with Assef, Amir hears the sound of his ribs snapping and Sohrab’s screams, and finds himself swallowing his own teeth and blood. As Assef beats him, Amir begins to laugh with relief, finally feeling healed from his past. Sohrab asks Assef to stop hurting Amir and levels a slingshot at him. When Assef persists, Sohrab shoots him in the left eye. As Assef curses them and shrieks in pain, Amir and Sohrab escape the house.

Chapter 23

Amir slips in and out of consciousness and remembers seeing a woman named Aisha and a man with a mustache. He realizes that he is in a hospital in Peshawar and that the faces he remembers were those of doctors and nurses. His mouth is wired shut, several of his ribs are broken, and his spleen is ruptured. When Farid and Sohrab visit, Farid tells Amir that Rahim Khan has “gone” but has left a note.

In the note, Rahim Khan admits that he knows everything that happened with Hassan, but he implores Amir not to be so hard on himself. He also says that Baba’s harsh treatment resulted from Baba’s being a man “torn between two halves.” He asks Amir to forgive his father but, most importantly, to forgive himself.

When Farid visits later that day, Amir asks him for a favor. Farid responds, “For you, a thousand times over,” which reduces Amir to tears. He asks Farid to take down the names of the couple who wish to adopt Sohrab.

Amir plans to leave Peshawar, but Farid turns up at the hospital and tells him that the American couple who Rahim Khan said would adopt Sohrab do not exist. Amir resolves to take Sohrab with him to Islamabad.

Chapter 24

Amir and Sohrab arrive in Islamabad. Amir wakes up from his nap to find that Sohrab has disappeared, and he eventually locates the boy outside a mosque. Sohrab confesses that he is worried that God will send him to hell for what he did to Assef. Amir tells him that Hassan would be very proud of Sohrab for saving Amir’s life. Sohrab then says that he feels “so dirty and full of sin” after being subjected to sexual abuse by the Taliban, and as he cries in Amir’s arms, Amir asks him to come and live with him in San Francisco.

Some days later, Amir tells Sohrab that he and Hassan were half-brothers but that Hassan was never aware of his true identity. Sohrab mentions San Francisco but confesses he is worried that Amir and Soraya will tire of him. Amir promises that will never happen. He calls Soraya to explain what has happened and finally confesses to his past.

The next day, Amir goes to the American Embassy, but he is told that adopting Sohrab may prove impossible, as there is no evidence that Sohrab is an orphan. Amir speaks to Omar Faisal, an immigration attorney, who offers a roadmap of options but says they are most likely to succeed if they relinquish Sohrab to an orphanage for the time being.

That evening, Amir tells Sohrab that he may have to go to an orphanage. Sohrab screams and cries himself to sleep. Amir is awoken by the sound of the phone ringing. Soraya tells him she has spoken to her relative who works at the INS, and he is confident that they can acquire an American visa for Sohrab. Amir runs into the bathroom to tell Sohrab the good news but finds him unconscious and bleeding in the bathtub, having slit his wrists.

Chapter 25

An ambulance is called, and Sohrab is rushed to the emergency department. Amir prays for Sohrab’s survival, his first prayer in fifteen years. Sohrab survives, but when he awakens, he tells Amir he is “tired of everything” and wants his old life back.

Amir takes Sohrab to San Francisco in August 2001. Sohrab has not said a word since that night in the hospital. One evening, General Taheri and Khala Jamila come over for dinner. The general asks why Amir has returned from Pakistan with a “Hazara boy.” Amir reveals that Baba slept with their servant and bore a son, Hassan. Hassan is now dead, and Sohrab is Hassan’s son and Amir’s nephew. He tells the general to never refer to Sohrab as a “Hazara boy” again.

Amid all this, the Twin Towers are brought down on 9/11. The US bombs Afghanistan, and the Taliban disperse, but what Amir finds strangest of all is hearing the “cities of his childhood” frequently discussed by Americans. Amir and Soraya throw themselves into new jobs helping run and fund a hospital for Afghan refugees overseas.

In March 2002, a miracle occurs. Amir takes Soraya, Jamila, and Sohrab to an Afghan picnic in Fremont. Soraya points out some kites flying above to Amir. He buys a kite and tells Sohrab that Hassan was the best kite runner in their district of Kabul. The boy does not respond, so Amir sets about flying the kite solo. When he begins to run the kite, however, Sohrab comes to join him and takes the string from Amir. Sohrab’s eyes have lost their vacancy, becoming alert and attentive as he watches Amir. As a green kite approaches theirs, Amir and Sohrab perform Hassan’s favorite trick, “the old lift and dive,” and the green kite is defeated.

When Amir looks at Sohrab, he notices a half-smile forming on the boy’s lips. He asks Sohrab if he wants Amir to run the kite for him. When Sohrab nods, Amir runs the kite, shouting, “For you, a thousand times over.”

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Chapters 16–20