Summary and Analysis
Part 4: Chapter 50
Laila enjoys her new life in Murree. She doesn't mind her work and she enjoys having some time off to tour around the countryside with her family. However, in July 2002, Laila suggests to Tariq that she'd like to move back to Kabul. Hamid Karzai has been named president and the Taliban forces have been driven out of the city. She explains to Tariq that her desire is not based on homesickness as much as a desire to be part of all the good things going on in Kabul. Tariq agrees to follow her to Kabul. She says she needs to make a stop in Herat on the way home.
Aziza and Zalmai are both upset about the move. Laila tells Aziza there will no longer be bombs falling constantly anymore and she won't go back to the orphanage; Tariq assures Zalmai they'll buy a new goat as soon as they get settled in Kabul. They set off for Herat.
In Herat, they get a hotel room and the next morning, Laila gets a taxi and sets off alone to Gul Daman, the village where Mariam's kolba is situated. She finds Mullah Faizullah's home and talks with his son, Hamza, who informs her that the Mullah died years ago. Laila explains her connection to Mariam and Hamza takes her to the kolba. Exploring the kolba, Laila is overwhelmed by the feeling of Mariam's presence and even imagines her as a little girl, sewing a doll. Afterward, Hamza takes her back to his home to give her a box left there by Jalil many years ago.
Laila returns to the hotel and opens the box; inside are a videotape, a letter, and a sack. She locates a VCR in the hotel and puts the tape in. Pinocchio starts playing. Laila wonders why Jalil left this tape for Mariam. Then she reads the letter, in which Jalil apologizes and explains his regret and shame for how he behaved so many years ago. He writes that in the sack is Mariam's portion of her inheritance — too little, too late, Jalil knows, but he hopes it offers her some comfort. Later, when Tariq and the kids return to the hotel, Laila shares with him the contents and weeps.
During Laila's visit to Herat, she's able to say goodbye to Mariam as well as find belated closure in Mariam's relationship to Jalil. Jalil's letter also marks a final commentary on his role as Mariam's father, and wraps up the contrast between all the father figures in this novel. Through Laila's journey to Herat, she's able to learn more about Mariam's childhood as well as her relationship with Jalil and through these revelations, Laila finds peace. By visiting the kolba where Mariam grew up, Laila gains a better understanding of Mariam. She sees the willow stand and the dry creek bed and all of these images from Mariam's past, which help her remember Mariam and feel close to her one last time.
This pilgrimage also offers closure on the rift between Mariam and Jalil. Jalil's three last gifts to Mariam — the letter, Pinocchio, and her inheritance — show Jalil's sincere regret and love for Mariam, each object conveying a different aspect of his feelings. By including the video, Jalil acknowledges the promise he broke and attempts to fix it. Through the letter, Jalil explains his case and is able to clear his conscience and ask for forgiveness. Finally, the inclusion of the inheritance signifies Mariam as, at long last, a legitimate child, removing the stigma of being born out of wedlock. Laila is able to act as a stand-in for Mariam by accepting these gifts.
Jalil's last act as a father restores, at least partially, the image of him Mariam carried with her throughout her childhood. In the main father figures presented throughout the novel — Jalil, Hakim, and Rasheed — they are all fallible to varying degrees, but all, at some level, capable of love. Jalil betrays his daughter but attempts to make amends; Hakim, while a wonderful father, has difficulty in connecting with his wife's suffering regarding their sons; and finally, Rasheed, heartless and selfish in nearly every aspect except for his affection and kindness toward Zalmai. Through his investigation of motherhood, fatherhood, and gender roles, Hosseini shows how difficult it is to be a good man, woman, father, or mother, and how social demands, values, and limitations structure these attempts. By providing all of these fathers with redeeming qualities, Hosseini shows compassion for his characters and for the complex situation in which they struggle to do their best.