Summary and Analysis
Chapter 22 - January 1989
Jumping ahead two years to January 1989, Laila is almost 11 years old. She, her parents, and Tariq watch as the last Soviet soldiers leave Kabul. Both she and Tariq have matured, and Tariq's father has suffered a heart attack, leaving his family feeling anxious and downtrodden. On the bus ride home from watching the convoy, the adults discuss their feelings about the political climate and suggest that the current leader, Najibullah, is just a puppet for the Soviets, and that nothing substantial will change.
Later that day, Laila and Tariq go to the movies. During a wedding scene, Tariq says he'll never get married and Laila tries to hide her disappointment, as she's developed deeper feelings for Tariq. They watch a kissing scene and both feel awkward and tense after it ends.
In two succinct scenes, Hosseini establishes that both Afghanistan as well as Laila and Tariq are at a crossroads. As the last Soviets leave Kabul, the citizens of the city have mixed feelings. They do not feel a true revolution has occurred and question the future. This insight into the cultural landscape creates a mood of uncertainty and fear and helps the reader to understand just how hard it is for people, such as Fariba, to move on and embrace life again. The war is over and the Afghani people won, but it doesn't feel like a victory.
Uncertainty arises for Laila and Tariq as well. Through their discussion in the movie theater, it's evident that they are no longer children, but adolescents starting to contemplate romance and marriage. Tariq rejects both notions as silly whereas Laila is beginning to feel an attraction to Tariq. This scene suggests changes in their relationship as they become teenagers and grapple with the challenge of maturity and cultural pressures: can a teenage boy and girl remain friends without sexual feelings? Can their traditional religious community allow it?