The book opens in 2001, with the narrator (Amir) remembering something that happened in 1975, an unnamed event in an alley that “made him who he is today.” The memory of this event has continued to haunt Amir for years despite his attempts to escape it. Amir explains that he received a call the summer before from an old friend in Pakistan named Rahim Khan. Amir thinks of Rahim Khan’s voice as symbolic of Amir’s own past “unatoned sins.” Rahim Khan asks Amir to come to see him in Pakistan, and tells Amir “there is a way to be good again.”
Hosseini opens with the themes of memory, guilt for betrayal, and hope for redemption. Amir is an adult living in America and looking back on his youth in Afghanistan – opening with this scene shows how important memory and history will be in the novel. The details are still vague, but it is clear that some past event in Afghanistan still haunts Amir, and that he is looking to “be good again” – to redeem himself somehow.
Amir grew up in Kabul, Afghanistan, but he lives in San Francisco now. He walks around Golden Gate Park and watches two kites flying overhead. The kites make Amir think of his past in Afghanistan, and especially a boy named Hassan, a “kite runner” with a cleft lip.
Kites are introduced here as both reminders of Amir’s past guilt and symbols of hope. The story will then jump back in time, and be told as Amir’s memory – memory is very important, as it haunts Amir and informs the rest of life.