Summary and Analysis
Chapter 51 - April 2003
After two years in Kabul, the drought has finally ended. The Kabul River flows again. Laila and Tariq rent a small house that Tariq is fixing up. In the mornings, Laila says prayers with Aziza and then gets the kids ready for school. They all walk together to the orphanage where Aziza once lived, which now, really is a school. Laila is a teacher there, and she and Tariq have been heavily involved with renovating the building. On their way to school, Laila sees new signs of life sprouting throughout Kabul — music in the air, saplings planted in yards.
At school, Zalmai practices free throws with Zaman. Laila finds her students waiting for her in the classroom. She takes a moment to think of Mariam. Laila has no idea where she's buried, but she feels Mariam's presence constantly. She starts class, thinking about the name game Tariq, Aziza, and Zalmai play. Pregnant once again, Laila considers that the name game only involves boys' names. If she has a girl, Laila already knows that she'll name her daughter, Mariam.
In the novel's final chapter, Hosseini depicts a hopeful portrait of Kabul as shown through the state of the orphanage, Laila's role as a schoolteacher, and her pregnancy. The orphanage symbolizes the changes going on in Kabul as a whole. From the freshly planted apple trees to the new classroom, the orphanage has become a true sanctuary for children who have lost their parents due to war. If the orphanage can take care of society's most vulnerable members, there's hope that Afghani society will truly recover and thrive.
The second sign of hopefulness is Laila's role as a teacher. When Laila was a child, she was taught that education was the key to a good life and that she had a responsibility to give back to society in return for receiving that education. Laila fulfills both these conditions through her new career. By teaching both girls and boys in the orphanage, she takes the first step in showing them a different way of life, in which equality among genders is the norm, not the exception. She thus becomes a "mother" to all of the children she works with, serving as a compassionate guide, educating their minds as well as their spirits.
Finally, Laila's pregnancy is the ultimate sign of hope. She has seen so much pain and suffering, but sees so many positive changes that she's willing to bring another life into the world. Her willingness to become a mother several times over — first for Aziza and Zalmai, then for the orphanage children, and now for a new child — reiterates Hosseini's theme regarding the power of motherhood and how it's essential to mending the social fabric of Afghanistan. By upholding the values of motherhood — self-sacrifice, compassion, and dedication to others — Laila's able to be a positive influence on all those around her, and serve as a model for how Afghanistan could embrace a new phase of its history.