The Kite Runner Book Summary - The Kite Runner Book explained in key points
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The Kite Runner summary

Khaled Hosseini

An Emotional Story of Betrayal and Redemption in 1970s Afghanistan

4.5 (25 ratings)
19 mins

What is The Kite Runner about?

The Kite Runner (2003) is narrated by Amir, an Afghan living in the US, as he reflects on his childhood in Kabul, and an incident that changed his life. This best-selling novel is a story of friendship, family, betrayal, and redemption.

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    The Kite Runner
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    The Kite Runner begins with the narrator, Amir, looking back on his childhood in Afghanistan.

    In 1975, Amir is 12 years old. He lives a comfortable life in Kabul with his father, Baba. Their relationship isn’t always an easy one, and Amir longs for his father’s approval.

    Amir and Baba are a family of two – Amir’s mother died during childbirth. 

    However, they also have a close relationship with Ali and Hassan, the father and son who live in the house at the end of the garden.

    Hassan is Amir’s best friend. However, both boys are aware that their social status is not the same – Hassan is the son of Amir’s father’s servant. 

    They also have different ethnicities. Amir is Pashtun, the majority ethnic group in Afghanistan. Hassan is Hazara, an ethnicity that often faces discrimination.

    Despite these differences, the boys are very close. 

    They spend a lot of time together, often flying kites and taking part in tournaments. Hassan is the “kite runner” – the one who runs after fallen kites.

    Hassan is a loyal, devoted friend. He tells Amir he would do anything for him. But one day, Amir’s loyalty is tested, and what happens next changes everything…

    There’s a kite-fighting competition, and Amir and Hassan are keen to win. Amir sees it as a chance to impress his father, and finally gain his approval.

    That day, Hassan disappears while running for a kite. Amir goes to look for him, and stumbles across a shocking scene. He sees Hassan being raped in an alley by an older boy, Assef. Instead of intervening, Amir runs away.

    After this incident, Amir feels uncomfortable around Hassan, and their friendship starts to deteriorate. In an attempt to make him leave, Amir plants money under Hassan’s mattress.

    Hassan lies to protect Amir, and says that he stole the money. His father, Ali, tells Amir’s father, Baba, that he can no longer work for him, or stay in the neighborhood.

    Baba is devastated and begs them to reconsider, but Ali and Hassan leave shortly afterwards. The two families are divided, seemingly forever.


    The friendship between Amir and Hassan is ended by acts of betrayal. Amir not only fails to intervene when he witnesses the rape, but he adds to Hassan’s suffering by shunning him afterwards. 

    Then, to make matters worse, he plants the money under Hassan’s mattress, making him look like a thief. And it’s all because Amir is unable to cope with his own cowardice and guilt.

    Amir’s behavior is hard to understand, even if we make allowances for his young age. It’s disturbing to see him treat his friend in this way, when Hassan has been consistently kind and loyal.

    Amir and Hassan could be interpreted as two sides of the same person – the good and bad we all have inside us. 

    Hassan is so good that he’s almost saintlike. He doesn’t retaliate, and he won’t even defend himself if it means hurting someone he cares about. He takes the blame for the money under the mattress, so Amir doesn’t get in trouble.

    Amir, on the other hand, is shown as being weak, cowardly and self-centered – qualities he’s aware of.

    Perhaps this is another reason why Amir is uncomfortable around his friend. Hassan’s goodness makes Amir feel worse about his own character. 

    This is a theme that recurs throughout The Kite Runner – Amir’s sense of shame, guilt, and inadequacy.

    For now though, despite his inner turmoil, it seems that he’s achieved what he wanted – Hassan is out of his life. He’s no longer faced with daily reminders of his guilt.

    But as we’ll soon see, it’s not quite that simple. The past has a way of catching up with people….

    “I became what I am today at the age of twelve, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975. I remember the precise moment, crouching behind a crumbling mud wall, peeking into the alley near the frozen creek.”

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    About the Author

    Khaled Hosseini is an Afghan-American writer, and the author of three other novels, including A Thousand Splendid Suns. He’s the founder of the Khaled Hosseini Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides humanitarian relief in Afghanistan.

    Who should read The Kite Runner?

    • Fathers and sons
    • People interested in Afghanistan

    Anyone who’s curious about a book that was a New York Times bestseller for 2 years

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