Amir lands in Peshawar, Pakistan. His cab driver talks about the terrible things happening in Afghanistan. The city is a blur of sensations for Amir, and everything reminds him of Afghanistan. They drive through an area called “Afghan Town,” where there are many businesses but everyone is poor.
Amir has been away from his country for so long that seeing the poverty of “Afghan town” is shocking reminder of all the atrocities that have happened in Afghanistan since he left.
Amir thinks about the last time he saw Rahim Khan in 1981, the night Amir and Baba fled Kabul. Baba and Rahim Khan had kept in touch since then, but Amir had not spoken to him since soon after Baba’s death. They arrive at Rahim Khan’s apartment and he answers the door, looking wasted and sickly.
Though Amir and Baba had to leave everything behind and flee, it is clear that they were among the lucky ones – they had money to go to America, and were not caught up in the wars or left as starving refugees.
At first Amir tries to avoid talking about Rahim Khan’s appearance, and he tells him about his marriage to Soraya, and about his career as a novelist – he has published four novels by now. Rahim Khan says he never doubted that Amir would be a writer, but he does not remember the leather-bound notebook he gave him.
Rahim Khan appears as the agent of Amir’s past, as it is his phone call that brings Afghanistan back to Amir and Amir back to Afghanistan. Their fates are contrasted in this meeting, as Rahim Khan is sick and dying, and Amir is a successful novelist and married man now.
The conversation then turns to the Taliban, and how bad things are in Afghanistan now. Rahim Khan says that he was at a soccer game and a man next to him cheered too loudly, and the guard on patrol smashed his rifle butt into Rahim Khan’s forehead, leaving a scar.
It is clear that the Afghanistan Amir knew is long dead. The Taliban now rule and have put a rigid Islamic law into place, which they use violence freely to uphold.
After Baba and Amir left Kabul, Rahim Khan lived in their house (Baba “sold” it to him) and tried to take care of it so they could return some day. Everyone thought Afghanistan’s troubles would only be temporary. Rahim Khan describes how after the Soviets left, different factions of the “Northern Alliance” took over different parts of Kabul, and there was constant violence and rockets hitting civilian houses. Baba’s orphanage had been destroyed by a rocket. When the Taliban took over, everyone celebrated them as saviors, and Rahim Khan actually danced in the street.
Rahim Khan gives a summary of the fighting that destroyed the old Afghanistan. Though the Northern Alliance helped push out the Soviets, they ended up causing even more damage than the Russians, as they turned against each other and sent rockets into civilian buildings. Many Afghans like Rahim Khan celebrated the Taliban’s victory, thinking it would mean peace, but the Taliban only instituted a new kind of daily terror.
Amir finally asks Rahim Khan about his health, and Rahim Khan says that he is dying, and that he does not expect to last the summer. He says that he wanted Amir to come to Pakistan to see him, but also for another reason. When Rahim Khan was living in Baba’s house, he was not alone – Hassan was there too. Rahim Khan wants to tell Amir about Hassan, and then ask him for a favor.
As Amir suspected, there is more to Rahim Khan’s request to come to Pakistan. There is something Amir can do to redeem himself, to “be good again.” And it must involve Hassan, the victim of Amir’s betrayal.