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The Kite Runner

Khaled Hosseini

Chapters 12–13

Chapters 10–11

Chapters 12–13, page 2

page 1 of 2

Summary: Chapter 12

After nearly a year of longing for Soraya, Amir finally gets the nerve to speak to her. General Taheri is away, but while they’re talking, Soraya’s mother, Jamila—whom Amir addresses formally as Khanum Taheri at first—returns. She asks Amir to sit, but he does the proper Afghan thing and declines. For weeks he talks to Soraya only when General Taheri is away, until one day he is giving her one of his stories when General Taheri arrives. General Taheri throws the story out, and walking Amir away he tells Amir to remember that he is among other Afghans. Amir is disheartened, but he soon becomes focused on Baba, who is ill. Baba is diagnosed with lung cancer but refuses to receive treatment. Amir tells Baba he doesn’t know what he’s supposed to do. Baba replies that he’s been trying to teach Amir precisely this all his life and forbids Amir to tell anyone about his illness.

Baba weakens as the months pass until one day he collapses. The cancer has spread to his brain. Afghans arrive in droves to see Baba in the hospital. At Baba’s bedside, Amir asks if he will go to General Taheri to ask Soraya’s hand in marriage for Amir. Baba goes happily the next day. General Taheri accepts, and after Baba tells Amir over the phone he puts Soraya on the line. Soraya is happy, but she says she must tell Amir about her past because she doesn’t want any secrets. When she was eighteen, she ran away with an Afghan man. They lived together for nearly a month before General Taheri found her and took her home. While she was gone, Jamila had a stroke. Amir admits it bothers him a little, but he still wants to marry her.

Summary: Chapter 13

The following night, Amir and Baba go to the Taheris’ home for the traditional ceremony of “giving word.” General Taheri is happy and says they are doing it the right way now. Because Baba is so sick, they plan to have the wedding quickly. Baba rents an Afghan banquet hall for the ceremony, buys the ring, Amir’s tuxedo, and other necessities, until he has spent almost all of his $35,000 in savings. Of the wedding Amir remembers sitting on a sofa with Soraya. They are covered with a veil and look at each other’s reflections in a mirror. It is the first time he tells her he loves her, and they are together for the first time that night. Shortly after, Baba dies. Many Afghans whom Baba helped come to the funeral. As he listens to them pay their respects, Amir realizes how Baba defined who he is.

Because their engagement was so brief, Amir doesn’t learn about Soraya’s family until after the wedding. General Taheri does not work. He feels it is below him and keeps the family on welfare. He also does not allow Jamila, who was once a great singer, to sing in public. Soraya tells Amir that, on the night her father brought her home after she ran away, he arrived with a gun, and once she was home he made her cut off her hair. Amir is different from every Afghan guy she has met.

In the summer of 1988, Amir finishes his first novel. He gets it published, and then he and Soraya start trying to have a baby. They are unable to conceive, however, and after numerous tests doctors cannot explain why they can’t have a child. They talk about adoption, but General Taheri says he doesn’t like the idea. Amir agrees, though he doesn’t seem certain. Amir’s writing career has gone well, in the meantime, and with the advance from his second novel, he and Soraya buy a house in San Francisco. But the inability to have a child still lingers between them.


The different events of this section all revolve around one focus: Amir becoming a man. He marries and makes love for the first time. He loses Baba and becomes fully responsible for himself. He also completes and publishes his first novel, establishing his career as a writer. In all of these events, Amir experiences a profound mix of joy and pain. Embracing independence and adulthood also requires him letting go of his childhood dependence on Baba. When Amir pleads with Baba to try chemotherapy, Amir asks what he is supposed to do without Baba. Baba replies that this is what he has been trying to teach Amir his whole life. To Amir, it is clear for the first time why Baba has always treated him the way he has. He was preparing Amir to take care of himself and to know right from wrong. In other words, he was teaching Amir to be a man. In his transition to adulthood, Amir also transitions from one family to another. At the beginning of the section he is a boy living in his father’s house. At the end, he is a man with a wife and his own home. What Baba does witness of this makes him happy, and he dies proud of Amir. Only one crucial thing remains missing for Amir. He wants to have a child.

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