The story skips forward in time, and Baba and Amir have been living in Fremont, California for almost two years. Baba likes the idea of America, but he has a hard time adjusting to the culture shock. One day at a convenience store where he often shops, Baba overturns a magazine rack in anger that the manager asked to see his ID when Baba used a check. Baba is enraged at the lack of trust and honor in this society, and Amir tries to apologize to the owners and defuse the situation.
Baba is again disgusted that the rest of the world does not live up to his high moral standards. When the manager asks to see his ID, Baba sees at as a personal attack, as if he himself were untrustworthy. In America Baba has none of the wealth and respect he had in Afghanistan.
That night Amir asks if they should go back to Pakistan, where they had spent six months waiting to get U.S. visas, but Baba says they are in America for Amir’s sake, not his own. Amir thinks bitterly that this is yet another gift he does not deserve, though he is glad to be in a place so far from home, where he can try to bury his old guilt.
Baba feels disconnected from everything he has ever known, but he continues to sacrifice himself for others’ sakes. For Amir, the disconnection is a good thing, as being so far away allows him to forget about his guilt for betraying Hassan.
Baba works at a gas station for twelve hours a day, six days a week. He was offered food stamps, but he rejected them with pride. Amir, meanwhile graduates high school at the age of twenty, and Baba is truly proud at his graduation ceremony.
In Afghanistan Baba was Ali’s master, but in America he now works more like a servant. He has lost his status and respect, but he retains his pride and principles and rejects charity.
That night Baba takes Amir to an Afghan kabob house, where he buys drinks for everyone and starts an impromptu party. After dinner Baba shows Amir his graduation present – an old Ford Grand Torino to take to college. Amir is moved with gratitude, but then Baba says he wishes that Hassan was there too and Amir feels suddenly suffocated.
Baba keeps acting as if he were back in his old life with his old money and connections, but his personality is still the same, and he can start up a party around himself even among strangers. Amir has been able to escape his guilt for a while, but Baba still regrets losing Hassan.
The day after his graduation Amir tells Baba that he wants to study creative writing, knowing that Baba will disapprove. Baba does indeed think the degree will be useless, but he does nothing more than grumble. Amir feels guilty thinking of Baba working so hard while he leaves to pursue his dream, but he decides he will stand firm and not sacrifice anything else for Baba’s approval.
Amir considers his betrayal of Hassan as a sacrifice for Baba, and he now decides to stay true to himself and his dreams. Unfortunately this does not involve redeeming himself or helping right things with Hassan, but only pursuing his love of writing.
Amir likes to take long drives in his car alone, past rich neighborhoods and poor ones. He says the first time he saw the Pacific, he almost cried. America has become a place for Amir to bury the ghosts of his past – his memories of war-torn Kabul and his guilt for his betrayal of Hassan. America is huge and moves quickly like a river, and Amir embraces the country because it helps him forget.
Amir describes America as a river, which becomes almost a symbol of baptism for him – a huge, fast-moving place where he can wash away his past sins. Amir wants to be reborn here, like in a Christian baptism, and start a new life where he can pursue writing and not be haunted by Hassan.
The next summer, in 1984, Baba buys an old van and spends his Saturday going around filling it up with purchases from garage sales. Then on Sunday, he and Amir set up a booth at a flea market and sell everything for a profit. Soon there is a whole section of the flea market made up of only Afghan families. It becomes a close community, with food and gossip flowing constantly between the booths.
With the flea market Baba does find a piece of his old Afghan community. There are people there who know him and his good reputation, and though he is only selling things for small profits, he is able to feel more at home in America.
One Sunday Baba introduces Amir to a man named General Taheri, who is very traditional and formal in his appearance and demeanor. Baba tells him that Amir will be a great writer someday, and Taheri insists that Amir should appreciate Baba, who is a great man. Then General Taheri’s daughter Soraya comes over with his tea, and she and Amir briefly exchange glances.
Hosseini introduces new characters that will become important in Amir’s life in America. Soraya is the first woman to take a major role in the plot, and with her appearance Hosseini is able to comment on other aspects of Afghan society.
On the way home Amir asks Baba about Soraya – he had heard rumors about her before. Baba is unwilling to spread gossip, but he says that Soraya was romantically involved with a man once, but it didn’t go well. Since this “loss of honor” no men have tried to court her. That night Amir falls asleep thinking of Soraya’s face.
In the character of Soraya Hosseini critiques the Afghan double standard regarding men and women. If a woman is involved with a man outside of marriage, it is a subject for a lifetime of shame and gossip, but if a man does the same thing, it is just him “having fun.”