Summary and Analysis Part 1: Chapter 4



Jalil's visits are Mariam's only solace every week and she changes as she waits for him. Mariam's restlessness begins Tuesday evening and crests when she waits at the doorway on Thursday afternoons, aware of Nana's watchful gaze, as she does her best not to run into her father's arms.

Once Jalil arrives, he has tea with Nana and Mariam, Nana bottling her bitterness and behaving politely in his presence. After tea, Mariam and Jalil fish in the creek. Sometimes, Jalil brings news clippings and reads them to Mariam. This is how Mariam learns that King Zahir Shah has been overthrown and his cousin, Daoud Khan, is now president of Afghanistan. Mariam is not interested in the story because she's distracted by the gift hiding in Jalil's pocket. Jalil sees his daughter's gaze and presents her with a pendant. After he leaves, Nana tells Mariam the pendant is cheap and Mariam concentrates on her secret wish: that one day she'll tell Jalil how much she wants to live with him in Herat and that when he hears this, Jalil will bring her to live with her half-siblings.


Chapter 4 develops Mariam's character and foreshadows a shift in the political climate of Afghanistan. Recall that in prior chapters, Mariam's alliance to either parent seems to oscillate; while she favors her father, she's unwilling to completely neglect her mother. However, after this visit from Jalil, it is clear that Mariam is starting to think about how different her life might be if she lived with her father. She does not want to remain isolated with her unhappy mother and hungers for a richer life in Herat, even if that means betraying her mother's wishes.

The news of the monarchy's end not only places the story in historical context, but also foreshadows that the shifting political conflict will impact the lives of Mariam and her parents. Because it is Jalil that brings this news to Mariam's attention, it's clear that the political shift from a monarchy to a republic weighs on Jalil's mind and will perhaps affect his affluent standing. And by sharing this information with Mariam, Jalil shows his desire to educate her, unlike Nana. While Mariam is too young to understand the political unrest around her, the fact that it is brought to light in the same chapter that Mariam reveals her desire to move to Herat aligns her fate with that of Afghanistan: both she and her nation will experience unknown (and potentially dramatic) changes.