- The period is December 2001, and our narrator, who tells his story in the first person, recalls an event that occurred in 1975, when he was twelve years old and growing up in Afghanistan.
- He does not say what happened, but says the event made him who he is.
- He follows this recollection by telling us about a call he received last summer from a friend in Pakistan named Rahim Khan.
- Rahim Khan asks our narrator, whose name is Amir, to come to Pakistan to see him.
- When Amir gets off the phone, he takes a walk through San Francisco, where he lives now. He notices kites flying, and thinks of his past, including his friend Hassan, a boy with a cleft lip whom he calls a kite runner.
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- As children, Amir and Hassan would climb trees and use mirrors to reflect sunlight into a neighbor’s window and shoot walnuts at the neighbor’s dog with a slingshot. These were Amir’s ideas, but Hassan never blamed Amir if they were caught.
- Amir lived with his father, Baba, in a lavish home in Kabul.Hassan and his father, Ali, lived in a small mud hut on the grounds of Baba’s estate, and Ali worked as Baba’s servant.
- Neither Amir nor Hassan had a mother. Amir’s died giving birth to him, and Hassan’s ran away after having him.
- One day while the boys are walking, a soldier says to Hassan that he once had sex with Hassan’s mother, Sanaubar. This soldier refers to Hassan as a Hazara.They were often persecuted.
- Ali was a devout reader of the Koran, the bottom half of his face was paralyzed, and polio destroyed the muscle in his right leg, giving him a severe limp.
- The Hazaras originally came from further east in Asia, and their features are more Asian than Arabic. Hassan’s parents were Hazara's. Amir and Baba are Pashtun.
- Amir learns some of the derogatory names they are called from a book, including mice-eating and flat-nosed, and says part of the reason for the animosity is because the Hazara are Shia Muslim while the Pashtuns are Sunni
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- Amir describes Baba to be a large man, six feet and five inches tall with a thick beard and wild, curly hair.
- According to one story, he even wrestled a bear. Baba did all the things people said he could not do. Though he had no training as an architect, he designed and built an orphanage.
- Baba also has his own strong moral sense. While Baba pours himself a glass of whiskey, Amir tells him that a religious teacher at his school says it is sinful for Muslims to drink alcohol.
- Baba tells him that there is only one sin: theft. Every other sin is a variation of theft. Murdering a man, for instance, is stealing his life.
- Amir tries to please Baba by being more like him but rarely feels he is successful.
- He also admits to feeling responsible for his mother’s death.
- What Amir is good at is poetry and reading. But he worries his father does not see these as manly pursuits.
- Amir later overhears Baba talking to his business associate, Rahim Khan, the man that later calls Amir from Pakistan. Baba says 'there is something missing in that boy' and 'I'd never believe he's my son' all adding to Amir's jealousy of Hassan's relationship with Baba. 'Hassan steps in and fends them off'
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- The story jumps back in time to 1933, the year Baba is born. Around the same time, two young men who are driving while drunk and high hit and kill Ali’s parents. Amir’s grandfather takes the young Ali in, and Ali and Baba grow up together.
- Baba, however, never calls Ali his friend because of their ethnic and religious differences.
- Amir says as a child he never thought of Hassan as a friend. Amir’s youth seems to him like a long stretch of playing games with Hassan. But while Amir would wake up in the morning and go to school, Hassan would clean the house and get groceries.
- Amir often read to Hassan, who was illiterate.Their favorite story was “Rostam and Sohrab" During one reading session under their favorite pomegranate tree, Amir begins to make up his own story while he is reading to Hassan. Hassan says it is one of the best stories Amir has read.
- That night, Amir writes his first story, about a man whose tears turn to pearls. The story ends with him sitting atop a mound of pearls, sobbing over the wife he has stabbed. Amir tries to show Baba the story while Baba is speaking with Rahim Khan, but Baba does not pay much attention.
- Rahim Khan takes the story instead. When Rahim Khan leaves later than night, he gives Amir a note. In the note, he tells Amir he has a great talent. Amir goes to where Hassan sleeps and wakes him so he can read him the story. When Amir has finished, Hassan tells him the story is terrific.
- He has only one question: why didn’t the man make himself cry with onions? Amir is annoyed he didn’t think of it himself and has a nasty thought about Hassan being a Hazara, though he says nothing.
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- One night, gunfire erupts in the street. Ali, Hassan, and Amir hide in the house until morning.
- Amir says that night was the beginning of the end of the Afghanistan they knew.
- It slipped away further in 1978 with the communist takeover, and it disappeared completely in 1979 when Russia invaded.
- Amir and Hassan discover Assef and two other boys from the neighborhood.
- Assef is a notorious bully. He is one of the children who mocks Ali’s limp and calls him names. He also carries a set of brass knuckles.
- Assef calls Hassan a flat-nose and asks if they heard about the new republic. He says his father knows Daoud Khan, and that next time Daoud Khan is over for dinner he’s going to talk to him about Hitler. Hitler had the right idea about ethnic purity.
- Afghanistan is the land of Pashtuns and the Hazaras just pollute the country.
- Assef takes out his brass knuckles. He says Amir is part of the problem for being friends with a Hazara. For a moment, Amir thinks that Hassan is his servant, not his friend, but he quickly recognizes his thought is wrong.
- As Assef goes to hit Amir, Assef suddenly freezes because Hassan has his slingshot aimed at him, which allows Amir and Hassan to get away.
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Chapter Five ...
- The following winter, on Hassan’s birthday, Ali calls Hassan inside.
- Baba is waiting for him with a man named Dr. Kumar. Dr. Kumar is a plastic surgeon. He is Hassan’s present. Dr. Kumar explains that his job is to fix things on people, sometimes people’s faces.
- Hassan touches his lip in recognition. The surgery works, and though Hassan’s lip is raw and swollen while he recovers, he smiles all the while. The winter after, all that remains of his cleft lip is a faint scar.
- Amir says 'Hassan hadn't done anything to earn Baba's affections; he'd just been born with that stupid harelip'
- Amir says that it is ironic as it was that winter that Hassan stopped smiing
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