Ugwu finds a pile of burned books in the yard of Odenigbo’s old house. Olanna and Odenigbo stare at it, and Odenigbo realizes all his old research papers are in the pile too. He sits down on the ground and looks “so undignified, so unmasterly.” They explore the house and find it stripped bare and cobwebbed. The bathtub is full of dried feces. Ugwu wants to clean, to scrub away all the filth, but he knows that the house will never be like it once was.
Ugwu has referred to Odenigbo as “Master” throughout the entire book, despite the crumbling of all the barriers between them, and it is this final destruction of books and papers that finally makes the Master “unmasterly.” Everything about the happy past has been corrupted and destroyed.
Ugwu goes home to Opi and is greeted by his father’s second wife, and then the rest of the village. Anulika looks changed - she has grown uglier and won’t look Ugwu in the eyes. Ugwu’s father embraces him, but he says that Ugwu’s mother died from her coughing. Ugwu falls to the ground and grieves.
Ugwu’s mother’s death wasn’t even caused by the war, but it still comes as another tragic loss heaped upon the wreckage of Ugwu’s young soul.
Later Ugwu sits with Anulika, but she seems to have no wit or energy left. Ugwu wonders what happened to their old closeness, and they are both relieved when they part ways. Ugwu then sees Nnesinachi carrying a baby. She greets him and says that she lived with a Hausa soldier during the war. Nnesinachi tells Ugwu that while she and her soldier were away, a group of Nigerians gang-raped Anulika. Ugwu goes to the stream and sobs.
Ugwu’s ideal of Nnesinachi has casually slipped away. There is a horrible irony in Anulika’s rape – it is almost a punishment for Ugwu’s sin, but it is even more terrible that it isn’t a punishment on Ugwu himself, but on his innocent sister. He doesn’t see the bar girl again, but he does see the long-lasting effects of his actions on his own sister.
Ugwu returns to Nsukka but doesn’t tell Olanna about Anulika. Olanna is still preoccupied with finding Kainene, and is convinced that she is still alive. Ugwu cleans the house and then goes to Freedom Square, where the Nigerians burned all the books in the university library. Ugwu hears that the Nigerians have sworn to kill five percent of Nsukka academics, and one night soldiers take a professor living nearby.
Ugwu grieves deeply but he continues to live, and he shows his willingness to survive by returning to his familiar “houseboy” activity – cleaning. The persecution and murder of the Igbo continues despite the war’s end. The burning of books is always a sign of tyranny and injustice.
Ugwu hears banging on the door and thinks that soldiers have come for Odenigbo, but it is Miss Adebayo. She starts to cry when she sees Odenigbo and hears about Okeoma. Ugwu dislikes her “Nigerianness,” and the fact that she didn’t even know about the sufferings of Biafra until she heard about it in London, but he still wishes for the evenings of long ago when she would argue with Odenigbo.
Miss Adebayo is like Mohammed, a sympathetic character from the past who becomes unsympathetic by her very distance from the Biafran suffering. There is still oppression of the Igbo, but the Igbo also have a lingering distrust of the Hausa and Yoruba.
One day Ugwu thinks Miss Adebayo is banging on the door, but then two soldiers burst in. They make everyone in the house lie flat on the ground. They eat some of Ugwu’s cooking, shred some of Odenigbo’s papers, and then leave. After they go Ugwu tries to give Baby a bath, but she wants to do it herself for the first time.
The war is over, but the “casual cruelty” of the world continues. Baby has never really had any agency or character of her own, and her first act of independence in the new Nigeria is a small sign of hope, though it comes after she sees her parents being trodden upon and indicates a desire to clean herself, perhaps, of that experience.
Ugwu comes back to the kitchen and finds Richard reading his notes. Richard says that Ugwu's writing is “fantastic,” and Ugwu says it will be part of a big book about the life of Biafra. He says he wishes he still had the Frederick Douglass book with him. Richard says he will look for it. He is going to search for Kainene in Port Harcourt, Umuahia, and Lagos.
After all the suffering, loss, and death there are few things to look forward to among the characters, but Ugwu seems to be driven onward by his writing. The old Richard would have been condescending or jealous of Ugwu’s writing, but by now he is totally devastated by Kainene’s loss and accepts that Ugwu is the rightful narrator of the Biafran story.
Ugwu asks if Richard will ask about Eberechi when he is in Umuahia, and Richard says he will. Ugwu asks Richard if he is still writing his book, and Richard says he isn’t. He says “the war isn’t my story to tell, really.” Ugwu silently agrees, but says that he liked the title.
With this revelation Adichie undercuts the trope of the “white savior” in Western literature – instead of Richard telling the story of Biafra to the world and making the biggest difference, it is Ugwu – the character who experienced the war most deeply and horribly, the character who started out as the poorest and least educated, and the character who most deserves to tell the story.