Summary and Analysis Part 2: Chapter 21



Hakim surprises Laila and Tariq with a trip to see the giant stone sculptures of Buddha in Bamiyan Valley. The three of them hike to the tops of the statues, exploring the caves where Buddhist monks used to live. Hakim tells Laila and Fariq that he brought them there to show them one of his favorite places, and to remind them of the rich, varied history of their country. Hakim tells Laila that he brought Fariba here, and that she was different before she lost her sons — joyous and exuberant. While Tariq rests, Hakim tells Laila how part of him would like to move to America and start over, but he knows Fariba would never leave Afghanistan.

Six months later, the Soviets sign a peace treaty and leave Afghanistan. On hearing the news, Fariba says she will not celebrate until the Mujahideen, the Afghani Muslim fighters, hold a victory parade.


Hosseini uses Hakim's excursion with Laila and Tariq to provide insight into Hakim and Fariba's past, and to add complexity to the historical timeline in which the story takes place. Hakim's telling of his trip to see the statues with Fariba demonstrates that Fariba was different once, and proves that the loss of their sons affected Hakim and Fariba differently. By focusing on Fariba and the historical significance of the statues, Hakim shows his passion for his family and for history and his appreciation for the complexities of both. Even though he expresses interest in leaving Afghanistan, he realizes Fariba never would leave and, despite the distance between them, he is loyal to her and would never move without her.

Furthermore, just as he acknowledges and accepts the complexity of maintaining a family, Hakim also acknowledges Afghanistan's history and the importance of keeping it mind, especially at this particular crossroads where the communist regime and all the benefits it has contributed to gender equality, is threatened by the Muslim forces driving the Soviets out. By including the Buddha statues in his narrative, Hosseini establishes the fluidity of cultural values, and how easily history can be forgotten in the face of any fundamentalist belief, be it in communism or Islam, or anything else.