Summary and Analysis
Chapter 44 - Laila
Laila tells Tariq that she was led to believe he was dead. Tariq describes for Laila the beautiful place he currently lives, Murree, Pakistan.
The plot shifts to dinner that evening. Zalmai tells his father about Laila's visitor. Rasheed immediately figures out who it is.
The action shifts back to Laila and Tariq. Tariq tells Lailia that he and his parents had made it to Pakistan and were living in Nasir Bagh, a refugee camp. Conditions at the camp were poor and after the first winter, Tariq's father had died and his mother was sick. Tariq searched for work but had trouble gaining employment because of his missing leg. Finally, he took a job delivering a fur coat. The police stopped him and the coat's seams burst with hashish when the cops tore it apart. Tariq spent seven years in prison, but the connections he made in prison led him to his current employer, a hotel owner named Sayeed. He works as a janitor and lives in a little shack some distance away with his goat. Laila is relieved to realize he's not married. Tariq tells her he'd written her dozens and dozens of letters while he was imprisoned.
The plot shifts again, returning to dinner, and tension mounts as Zalmai tells Rasheed how Laila let the other man see her face. Zalmai sadly begins to realize his tattling is getting Laila and Mariam into serious trouble.
The action shifts to Laila and Tariq. Laila begins by assuring Tariq that she would have searched for him if she thought he was alive. She tells him that he has a daughter, Aziza, and Tariq says he'd like to meet her. Tariq also says that he wants to be with Laila. Flustered and overwhelmed, Laila is unable to give him an answer at that moment, though she insists he come back the next day so they can visit Aziza.
Through the use of time shifts, which break the narrative flow, Hosseini raises the tension caused by Tariq and Laila's reunion. The time shifts also allow Rasheed's reaction to the unfolding of his lie to become increasingly angry. And they demonstrate that Laila does not immediately run away with Tariq. This foreshadows serious problems for Laila in the chapters that follow: is her burqa-less visit with Tariq the final straw for Rasheed?
The tension is established by these shifts as it forces us to digest Tariq and Laila's reunion in pieces. First, this piecemeal approach helps create a complicated mood. For instance, Laila's initial rush of joy recedes as she realizes all that's happened to both of them — they're both missing teeth and their bodies are no longer those of teenagers — it's impossible for them to ignore what they've suffered. By allowing them to take turns telling their stories and interrupting those stories, Hosseini grounds this surreal and unexpected reunion in reality — Laila and Tariq can't pick up where they left off, just as their story cannot be told in one complete chunk. Thus, their reunion is overshadowed by the difficulties of their lives: will Laila be able to safely leave? What will Rasheed do next?