Summary: Chapter 24
Amir and Sohrab arrive in Islamabad. When Amir wakes from a nap, Sohrab is gone. Amir remembers Sohrab’s fascination with a mosque they had passed and finds him in the mosque parking lot. They talk a little about their parents, and Sohrab asks if God will put him in hell for what he did to Assef. Amir says Assef deserved more than he got, and Hassan would have been proud of Sohrab for saving Amir’s life. Sohrab is glad his parents cannot see him. The sexual abuse he suffered makes him feel dirty and sinful. Amir says he is neither, and asks Sohrab if he wants to live in America with him. For a week Sohrab doesn’t give an answer, but one afternoon he asks what San Francisco is like. He says he is scared that Amir or his wife will tire of him. He never wants to go back to an orphanage. Amir promises that won’t happen, and after Sohrab agrees to go to America, Amir calls Soraya to explain everything.
The next day, Amir goes to the American embassy. The man there tells Amir the adoption will be almost impossible. Without death certificates, there is no way to prove Sohrab is an orphan. Amir should speak to Omar Faisal, an immigration attorney. Amir and Sohrab see Faisal the next day. He says it will be hard, but there are options. Amir can put Sohrab in an orphanage, file a petition, and wait up to two years for the government to approve the adoption. That night, when Amir tells Sohrab he may have to go back to an orphanage, Sohrab screams that they’ll hurt him and cries until he falls asleep in Amir’s arms. While he sleeps, Amir talks to Soraya, who tells him that Sharif, a family member who works for the U.S. immigration department, or INS, says there are ways to keep Sohrab in the country once he’s in. Amir goes to tell Sohrab and finds him bleeding and unconscious in the bathtub.
Summary: Chapter 25
Sohrab is rushed to the emergency room. In the hospital waiting area, Amir uses a sheet as a prayer rug and prays for the first time in more than fifteen years. Eventually he falls asleep in a chair and dreams of Sohrab in the bloody water and the razor blade he used to cut himself. A doctor wakes Amir and tells him that Sohrab lost a great deal of blood, but he will live. For several days, Amir stays in the hospital while Sohrab sleeps. When Sohrab awakes, Amir asks how he feels, but Sohrab doesn’t answer. Amir reads to him, but Sohrab pays no attention. Sohrab tells Amir he is tired of everything. He wants his old life back and says Amir should have left him in the water. Amir says he was coming to explain that they found a way for Sohrab to go to America. But Sohrab stops speaking entirely.
Amir and Sohrab arrive in San Francisco in August 2001. General Taheri and Jamila come over for dinner, and while Soraya and Jamila set the table, Amir tells General Taheri about the Taliban and Kabul. General Taheri tip-toes around the subject of Sohrab at first but finally asks why Amir brought back a Hazara boy. Amir says Baba slept with a servant woman. Their son, Hassan, is now dead. Sohrab is Hassan’s son and Amir’s nephew. Amir tells General Taheri never to call Sohrab a “Hazara boy” in his presence again. After September 11 and the American bombing of Afghanistan that followed, the names of places in Amir’s country are suddenly all over. Amir and Soraya take jobs helping to run and raise money for a hospital on the Afghan-Pakistani border, and General Taheri is summoned to Afghanistan for a ministry position.
One rainy day in March 2002, Amir takes Sohrab, Soraya, and Kamila to a gathering of Afghans at a park. There is a tent where people are cooking. Sohrab, who is still not speaking, stands out in the rain, but eventually the weather clears. Soraya points out kites flying in the sky. Amir finds a kite seller, and with the new kite he walks over to Sohrab. While Amir checks the string, he talks about Hassan. Then, with the kite ready, he asks Sohrab if he wants to fly it. Sohrab doesn’t answer, but as Amir runs, sending the kite into the air, Sohrab follows him. When Amir offers again, Sohrab takes the string. A green kite approaches for a battle, and while Amir prepares Sohrab he notices Sohrab looks alert. He shows Sohrab what used to be Hassan’s favorite trick, and quickly they have the other kite on the defensive. In one move, Amir and Sohrab sever the other kite’s string, cutting it loose. People cheer around them, and a brief smile appears on Sohrab’s face. Amir asks if he should run the kite for Sohrab, and Sohrab nods. “For you, a thousand times over,” Amir says (p. 371), and sets off running.
The ending of the book is not exactly a happy one, and not all loose ends are tied up neatly. It is not certain that the characters we have come to know will get what they want. It is quite the opposite, in fact, and for Sohrab in particular there are fresh wounds that will leave permanent scars. The near endless abuse he has suffered is manifest in almost everything he does. Because of the physical and sexual abuse Assef and the Taliban inflicted on him, he flinches every time Amir reaches out to touch him. He also bathes for long periods because he feels he is literally dirty as a result of his rape. Because of this abuse, as well as the abandonment he experienced when Hassan and Farzana were murdered, he is so terrified of going back to an orphanage, even temporarily, that he tries to kill himself. After he recovers, he says only that he wants his old life back. He stops speaking entirely, instead withdrawing into himself as if into a protective shell, completely unable to trust or open up to another person. In the pink scars on his wrists, he is left with a permanent mark of his trauma. Like everyone in the novel, he may move beyond the past, but he can never undo it.
Amir’s redemption is not perfect either. As his feelings of guilt return in the aftermath of Sohrab’s attempted suicide, he feels that, because he was going to break the promise he made never to send Sohrab back to an orphanage, it is his fault Sohrab tried to kill himself. As Amir prays in the hospital waiting room, he thinks the sins he committed against Hassan in the past are being revisited on him now. He is responsible now for Sohrab’s suicide, for instance, just as he was responsible for the chain of events that led to Hassan’s death. Furthermore, because he once pushed Hassan away when Hassan needed him most, God is now taking Sohrab as punishment. Even the relief from his past feelings that he does experience is not uplifting and transformative. He knows, for example, his guilt over his relationship with Baba was gone only because he feels no sting when he thinks Baba may have considered Hassan his true son. “I wondered if that was how forgiveness budded,” he writes in Chapter 25, “not with the fanfare of epiphany, but with pain gathering its things, packing up, and slipping away unannounced in the middle of the night.” (p. 359)
With all this, Khaled Hosseini suggests a general lesson about life: that there are no simple solutions to such emotionally and historically complex problems as those we have seen throughout the novel. In a perfectly just world, Amir would have been able to adopt Sohrab without any difficulty and bring him home to a wonderful new life. For that matter, in a perfectly just world, few of the novel’s significant events would have occurred at all. At one point, Amir describes an experience he had at a video store in California. A man was looking at a copy of “The Magnificent Seven,” and Amir, who had seen the movie 13 times, gave away the ending. In such movies, the ending reveals the point of the journey. Does the good guy win or does the bad guy? Does the love affair end tragically or happily? Amir isn’t sure exactly how his story ends. Life, he says, is not a movie. Of course, it is Khaled Hosseini, the author, putting these thoughts in the head of his fictional creation. But in doing so, he proposes something about the goal of fiction. If fiction wants to be true to life, it cannot provide easy answers to life’s intractable problems.
Despite this dose of wary realism, Hosseini ends his often painful novel with hope. Flying the kite with Sohrab, Amir feels like a boy again, and for that time at least, he is innocent. It is also the first real connection he feels to Sohrab since Sohrab stopped speaking. Flying the kite is his link to Sohrab much as it was once his link to Baba. The lifeless, vacant look leaves Sohrab’s eyes as he gets ready to battle the other kite, and half a smile peeks out from his face, which is enough to mark the beginning of Sohrab’s recovery in Amir’s mind. A portent of what’s to come, Sohrab’s smile implies that the abuses of the past cannot dominate him or anyone forever, and that eventually Amir, Sohrab, and Afghanistan will look to the future and be healed. The novel comes full circle as it ends, with Amir going to run the kite for Sohrab. He says to Sohrab the last words Hassan said to him before Hassan was raped, but despite the fact that those were the circumstances the last time these words appeared in the book, the hopeful tone suggests Amir has paid his penance and found his redemption.