Sohrab is taken to the emergency room, and Amir is not allowed to go in with him. Amir takes a sheet from a supply closet, asks a nurse which way is west, and uses the sheet as a prayer rug. He prays for the first time in more than fifteen years, and he recites the only words he can remember: “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is His messenger.”
Amir feels responsible for Sohrab’s suicide just as he did for Hassan’s rape and death, and he feels he is once again being punished for his sins. Amir returns in his time of need to the religion he has always struggled with, caught between liberal Baba and the Islamic fundamentalists.
Amir realizes then that he does believe in a God, and he asks God to forgive him for his neglect and betrayal, and he promises to pray every day if only God will save Sohrab’s life.
At this tragic juncture Amir seems to accept religion – not an Islam of harsh rules and violent jihad (holy war), but of a God who is willing to forgive and heal.
After a while Amir falls asleep on the floor, and he dreams of Sohrab in the bloody bathtub and the razor he used to cut himself, the same razor Amir had shaved with that day. A doctor wakes Amir up and tells him that Sohrab is alive, but he has lost a lot of blood. Amir is overcome with joy, and he cries into the doctor’s hands.
Amir’s prayers are answered, and so he will return to Islam for the rest of the narrative, and keep praying regularly. Amir’s redemption is imperfect, but so is this latest betrayal. Sohrab still lives, and so Amir has more time to regain his trust and try to make things right.
Several days pass with Amir sleeping on a hospital couch and Sohrab sleeping with a ventilator. Eventually Amir returns to his hotel to get some rest, but he can’t help lingering in the bathroom and imagining Sohrab’s suicide attempt. The next day Amir returns and finds Sohrab in a new room. He is awake, but under constant suicide watch. Amir asks him how he feels, but Sohrab says nothing, and his eyes look lifeless.
If before Sohrab seemed subdued because of his terrible past, now it seems that he has truly given up on life. He is even one of the luckier ones, compared to many Afghan children, as at least he has a relative trying to adopt him and take him away. The rape of the weak by the powerful leaves many broken, lost victims in its wake.
Amir reads from the story of “Rostam and Sohrab,” but Sohrab shakes his head when Amir asks if he should continue. Finally Sohrab speaks, and he says that he is tired of everything, and he wants his old life back, with his parents and Rahim Khan. He says he wishes Amir had left him in the bathtub. Amir touches his shoulder and he flinches. Amir says that he had been coming to tell Sohrab that he found a way to take him to America. Amir asks if he still wants to go, but Sohrab stops speaking altogether, and the light of hope seems to have left his eyes.
Sohrab once again flinches at Amir’s touch, as he has lost what little trust he had regained. Sohrab seems totally lost and hopeless now – similar to the current state of Afghanistan – but Amir is unwilling to give up. He has to believe that redemption is possible, or else he himself will sink under the weight of his guilt, and his country will collapse beyond any hope of recovery.
Eventually Amir takes Sohrab’s silence as an acceptance, and a week later they arrive in America. Amir remembers a small incident years before (in America), where he “ruined” the end of a movie for another customer at the video store. He says that in Afghanistan, people only want to know how the movie ends – if the protagonist finds happiness or failure, gets married or dies. Amir says that if he was describing his own story, he would not know how to explain the end. Life is not a movie – it is complex and does not care for dramatic arcs.
Amir comments on the arc of his own story, and once again Hosseini illustrates that there are no easy answers in life, especially with such dense, complex problems as those in Afghanistan and in Amir’s past. History and memory are constant sources of pleasure and pain, complicating the present and keeping any truly happy or tragic ending from being neatly tied up. Hosseini is trying to write realistic fiction, and there are no totally happy or sad endings in reality.
Amir returns to the narrative, as he and Sohrab arrive in San Francisco in August of 2001. Soraya picks them up at the airport, and she talks to Sohrab and shows him the bedroom she has decorated for him, but he does not respond or show interest.
The happy ending that should have been, with Sohrab completing Amir and Soraya’s family, and them raising Sohrab in a safe, loving environment, seems to dry up in the face of Sohrab’s traumas.
That night Amir finds the photo of Hassan under Sohrab’s pillow. Looking at Hassan’s face, Amir realizes how Baba was torn between his two sons, and how maybe he had thought of Hassan as his true son, as he was the half that contained all of Baba’s goodness. Amir realizes then that he has forgiven Baba, though it did not happen as dramatically as he expected.
Even Amir’s forgiveness of Baba and loss of guilt over their relationship comes with no dramatic fanfare, but quietly and realistically. This small, unobtrusive victory suggests how Amir, and later Sohrab, might eventually escape their pasts, by the slow letting go of pain, and the building up of something new to replace it.
The next night General Taheri and Jamila come over for dinner. While Soraya and her mother set the table, Amir tells the General about Kabul and the Taliban. General Taheri skirts the subject of Sohrab at first, but then asks Amir why there is a Hazara boy living with him now. Amir explains simply – Baba slept with his servant’s wife and had a son named Hassan, who is dead now. Sohrab is Hassan’s son, Amir’s nephew, and Amir warns General Taheri to never call Sohrab a “Hazara boy” in his presence again.
Amir has been changed by his experience in Afghanistan, and he acts like Baba would now, being refreshingly truthful and courageous in the face of General Taheri’s stiffness and Pashtun racial prejudice. Amir is not bothering to keep secrets now, but feels exhilarated in speaking out loud the truths that were kept closeted for so long.
Amir describes the nature of Sohrab’s silence – it is not just quietness, but as if he had shut himself down or curled up deep inside himself. He seems to occupy no space, and leaves no trace when he enters or leaves a room. The silence is hard on Soraya, as she had dreamed of doing so many “parent-child” things with him, and both her and Amir’s dreams of a happy family seem to wilt in Sohrab’s presence.
Soraya also feels the potential for the “happy ending” of their story, and the tragedy of how it went awry. Sohrab takes much longer this time to open up again, as his multiple traumas are now heaped onto his back and weighing him down. He is tragically world-weary for someone so young.
While the family lives quietly, great movements shake America and Afghanistan. Amir describes the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the American bombing of Afghanistan that followed. The names of Afghan cities are suddenly common words on American television, and the Taliban flee into the mountains, driven back by the Northern Alliance. Hamid Karzai becomes the new president of the country, and there is some hope for the future.
At this point the political events have little effect on Amir’s personal life, except that Afghanistan becomes an international topic of conversation. After so much tragedy there is still hope of redemption for the country, but as with Amir, it will not be quick and easy, but will be slow and complicated like the problems themselves.
Feeling helpless in the face of Sohrab’s silence and the new war in Afghanistan, Amir and Soraya get jobs with a hospital project where they help fund and run a hospital on the Afghan-Pakistani border. General Taheri is finally summoned back to Afghanistan for a ministry position, and Jamila stays with Amir and Soraya until she is ready to join him.
Amir does not try to avoid Afghanistan anymore, but is now willing to work to help his homeland. Hosseini implies that it is only through the work of many like Amir (or Baba before him) and Soraya that Afghanistan can be healed.
Amir describes a “small miracle” that takes place on a rainy day in March of 2002. He takes Sohrab, Soraya, and Jamila to a park where a group of Afghans are celebrating the Afghan New Year. Amir prays before he leaves – he knows all the verses by heart now. They arrive and Sohrab stands silently in the rain for a while, apart from the rest. Amir talks with some friends about Baba and about the difficult job Karzai has. By the afternoon the weather clears.
After undercutting so much potential for a “happy ending,” Hosseini does allow his story to end on a warily hopeful note with this final scene. Amir and Soraya are still part of the Afghan community, and they keep their traditions alive just as they did at the flea market.
Soraya interrupts Amir’s conversation and points out some kites flying in the sky over the park. Amir finds an Afghan kite seller and buys a kite, and he takes it over to Sohrab. Amir checks the string and talks to Sohrab about Hassan, and his skill at kite-flying and kite-running. Amir asks if Sohrab wants to fly the kite, but there is no response. Amir starts running, the kite rising behind him, and then he realizes Sohrab is following him. Amir feels a rush of joy, as he hasn’t flown a kite in decades.
Kites return to the narrative, but this time as a symbol of hope for the future. Amir shares this small moment with Sohrab, a moment like those he had with Hassan so long ago, and like Hassan had with Sohrab. Again there is no dramatic transformation – Sohrab does not suddenly speak, and shrug off his trauma – but there is a small instance of hope in the face of a dark world.
Amir offers again, and Sohrab hesitantly takes the kite string. Amir wishes time would stand still. Then a green kite approaches for a fight and Sohrab hands the spool back to Amir, but he looks alert and alive, interested in the kites. Amir shows Sohrab what was Hassan’s favorite trick, and soon they have trapped the green kite, with Amir flying and Sohrab holding the spool. Amir lets himself slip into his memories of Kabul, Hassan, Ali, and Baba, and then he cuts the string of the green kite.
As when he was in the back of the fuel truck, thinking of something happy, Amir instinctively returns to his memories of flying kites with Hassan. Hassan lives on in Sohrab, so Amir sharing this moment with Sohrab shows that Amir has achieved a kind of redemption. He cannot undo the past, but he can find again the happiness of his childhood, and it is almost as if he has made things right with Hassan.
Behind them people cheer for their victory, and the tiniest smile appears on Sohrab’s face. Amir knows it is only a little thing, but it is perhaps a sign of better things to come, an omen of hope for the future. Amir asks if he should run the green kite for Sohrab, and Sohrab nods. Amir says “for you, a thousand times over,” and he sets off running with a smile on his face.
As it was with Baba, flying the kite becomes a link between Amir and Sohrab, a place where their separate worlds intersect. Sohrab’s smile is a small thing, but Hosseini implies that it is an omen of more to come. Amir brings the story to a dramatic close with his own words, repeating the phrase Hassan spoke before his rape. When Amir says these words, they are words of hope, which suggests that Amir has indeed redeemed himself and been able to bring good out of his guilty past.