Summary and Analysis
Shifting into present tense, Tariq, Laila, and her children are in Muree, Pakistan. Laila and Tariq marry on the day of their arrival to Pakistan. Laila and Aziza assist Tariq with his job, cleaning hotel rooms for Sayeed. Eventually, Laila tells Aziza that Tariq is her biological father and Aziza is relieved and overjoyed that this kind, loving man — with whom she already feels a connection — is her real father.
Zalmai adjusts more slowly. He rejects Tariq's kindnesses and asks for Rasheed. Laila hates lying to him, but she does so again and again, telling Zalmai that his father has left and may never return.
On Tariq's days off, the foursome goes to the Mall for kebabs and trinkets and Laila realizes they look like a normal family. But she knows how much they've all gone through to get here. Aziza still has nightmares at night and Laila dreams often of Mariam.
By shifting to narrating the story in present tense, Hosseini establishes how much the characters' lives have changed and also signifies a sense of hope. Through the use of present tense, all of the changes the characters are going through seem more immediate in contrast with the prior sections of the book, which are told in past tense (with the exception of some of Laila's dreams). For instance, by using the present tense to describe Laila and Tariq's nearly wordless wedding ceremony, Hosseini contrasts it with Laila's first ceremony with Rasheed. Laila's wedding ceremony with Rasheed is narrated in the past tense in Chapter 30, with a focus on passing physical details rather than the feelings lying below the surface of such details, which are what Laila focuses on in her ceremony with Tariq. Her wedding with Tariq thus gains prominence — it is happening now, her marriage to Rasheed has always been "past" — something she wishes gone.
The use of present tense also highlights the changes Aziza and Zalmai are going through. When Aziza learns Tariq is her real father, she's overwhelmed with joy. Again, the "present-ness" of Tariq replaces the "past-ness" of Rasheed; Rasheed "is" never her father, only ever "was" — and wasn't much of one at that. Thus Hosseini uses the present tense to establish a contrast between this hopeful, loving present, with the past — a time in which everything seemed to be disappearing, even as it happened. Zalmai has the hardest time with this transition as he still yearns for the past and for his father, even as the other characters step hopefully into their new lives.