Amir is telling a story about his life in 2002. It’s about what happened in winter in the year 1975 and how he says it changed his life forever. He says the events haunt him to that day and that it involved a boy named Hassan who he called “the harelipped kite runner.” We are taken back to his childhood in Afghanistan when the monarchs still ruled the nation. At the time his father was one of the richest men in Kabul, and also one of the most generous. Amir’s mother had died giving birth to him. His best friend is Hassan, his servant and son of his father’s servant, Ali.
Despite how different they were from each other, the two boys were inseparable. The first word Hassan spoke was even Amir’s name. Baba, Amir’s father, was not very present in his life and didn’t give him much attention. Baba was known to not have everyone else’s need to conform. He had a unique perspective on things. His problem with Amir was that he wasn’t like him. Baba wanted him to be a courageous boy who played sports, but Amir was more inclined towards reading.
In 2002 Amir is talking about how Baba and Ali came to be acquainted. When Ali was orphaned after his parents died in an accident, Amir’s grandfather, Baba’s father, took the boy in. The two were raised together just how Amir and Hassan were growing up now. Both pairs were unable to consider each other friends because of the differences in station amongst them. One way this was manifested in Amir and Hassan’s relationship was that Amir would show off his ability to read to Hassan, who was illiterate. Still, when Amir read his first short story to Hassan, he was the one who discovered a hole in the plot that ruined the story.
That was the day there was a coup in the country, the people wanted a republic, not a monarchy. Some days later, the two boys get into a fight with a bully called Assef and two other boys. Assef despised Hazaras like Hassan and Hitler was his hero. Hassan would always defend Amir against everyone; he gets rid of Assef by pointing his slingshot at his eye. In that year, he gets surgery to fix his harelip paid for by Baba.
The schools close for winter and the children of the neighborhood spend their time kite fighting. When kites fell from the sky, boys would chase them down and take them back home to keep as trophies of their victories. These boys were called kite runners. Amir was the kite flier and Hassan the kite runner. He was the best in the neighborhood because of his uncanny sense of where kites would land at any given moment. There is a kite tournament in the neighborhood and incredibly, Amir ends up winning it. Hassan goes to run the kite that won Amir the tournament when it fell and he says “For you, a thousand times over.” Hassan doesn’t return that day, so Amir goes out to find him. He finally finds him in an alley with Assef and his two friends. Amir does nothing as Assef rapes Hassan. Later on, he pretends he doesn’t know what had happened when he sees Hassan coming home, blood trickling along his pants.
After Amir has won the kite tournament, his father is very happy with him and they are brought closer together by it. What Amir witnessed Hassan go through tears them apart. Amir is racked with guilt over not helping a person who would take a bullet for him and has stood up for him so many times. He tries to see Hassan as less as possible because he can’t bear to face him after what he’d done. He even asks his father if it would be possible to get different servants. When Baba hears this, he is so infuriated he threatens to hit Amir for the first time. He says that Ali and Hassan are their family. The next thing Amir tries to do to help his guilt is to get Hassan to stop being so loyal towards him. They go to the hill together and Amir starts to throw pomegranates at him, hoping it would make Hassan retaliate. But nothing Amir does gets a rise out of him. Hassan ends up hitting himself on the head with a pomegranate and asks Amir if that helps him feel better.
Amir resorts to framing Hassan for stealing. He hides money and a wristwatch he got for his birthday under Hassan’s pillow. Baba asks Hassan about it and he admits to stealing even though he didn’t do it, because he understood it’s what Amir wanted. Ali and Hassan leave.
Moving forward almost six years, Baba and Amir have to flee Afghanistan in the back of a truck because the Soviets invading has made it too dangerous to live in Kabul anymore. They reach Pakistan after an excruciating journey, two years after which they are able to move to Fremont in California. Baba starts doing long hours of work at a gas station so that Amir can pursue his education. Amir finishes high school and starts going to college. They sell things at the weekly flea market, where Baba meets someone he used to know, General Taheri. Amir is immediately taken with his daughter, Soraya. He tries to speak to her but her father reprimands him, saying this wasn’t the proper way to do things. Very soon after, Baba gets lung cancer. Amir asks him to approach General Taheri for his daughter’s hand in marriage for Amir. Her father accepts, and the wedding is rushed so that Baba can be there for it since his health has been deteriorating. He dies a month after the wedding. The new couple tries to conceive a baby while Amir has been attempting to get his writing career going.
One day he gets a call from Rahim Khan. He is sick and wants Amir to visit him in Pakistan. Amir goes to him and he’s told about the horrific state of Kabul. Rahim says things did not get any better after the Soviets were run out, the Taliban only knew how to spread violence. He needs Amir to do something for him, but first, he tells him about what happened to Hassan after they left. Rahim, who was looking after their house, went searching for Hassan after some time had passed. He finds him with his wife, Farzana, and convinces them to come back home with him. Farzana gives birth to a boy, Sohrab. A few years after that Rahim came to Pakistan to get treatment, which was when he gets a call with the message that the house had been taken over by the Taliban and Sohrab left an orphan.
Rahim asks Amir to go bring Sohrab to Pakistan to grow up in the care of a couple he knows there. He also reveals that Hassan was really Amir’s half-brother. Amir goes to the orphanage in Afghanistan where the boy is supposed to be but the director tells him the boy was taken a month before Amir arrived. He tells Amir he can find the Taliban official who took him at the game the following day. Amir goes to the stadium and watches the man he’s looking for stone two people to death at halftime. He makes an appointment to meet him.
At their meeting, Amir tells the man he wants to find a boy called Sohrab, and he is brought in to meet him. Sohrab is wearing an outfit of silk and makeup that makes Amir think that the men have been molesting him. Amir realizes suddenly that he is speaking to Assef. Assef now says they have some unfinished business to take care of, and that they have to fight to the death. He starts to beat up Amir and breaks his ribs, but Sohrab shoots Assef in the eye with his slingshot, which lets both him and Amir escape from the house. Amir is recuperating in the hospital when he comes to know there is no one to care for Sohrab, that Rahim made it up. He asks Sohrab if he would want to come to the US with him, and Sohrab says yes.
The officials initially tell Amir the adoption is not possible because there is no concrete proof of Sohrab’s parents being dead. Eventually, Amir and Soraya think of a plan to take Sohrab to the US, but Sohrab attempts suicide before Amir gets a chance to tell him. He survives but has gone mute from the trauma of it. They fly Sohrab out to the US, where he continues to be quiet. They take him to a park one day where there are other Afghans flying kites. Amir and Sohrab fight another kite and win using a trick Hassan taught him. Sohrab smiles one of his only smiles so far as Amir runs the kite for him.