Olanna experiences mood swings between great hope and crippling despair. She cannot even grieve for Kainene, because she still doesn’t know where she is or whether she is alive or not. After the soldiers came and ate their rice, Olanna took all her Biafran pounds and burned them. Odenigbo accused her of “burning memory,” but Olanna responded that her memory is inside her.
The mystery surrounding Kainene is an especially heartbreaking and unique way to end the novel. The Biafran money is now practically useless. It only serves as a reminder of lost hope, and is even dangerous to possess, as Nigerian soldiers would think anyone holding the money were still rebellious.
Weeks pass, and foreign academics send books to Odenigbo. Edna sends Olanna a package from Boston, where she lives now. Olanna’s bank account in Lagos has been erased, and she feels naked without all her savings. She starts looking for signs about Kainene’s fate in Baby’s questions, and she even consults a dibia (medicine man).
Life slowly starts to begin again, but there is very little to help the characters going forward. All Biafrans are left with hardly any money, and most have had their jobs and property seized by Nigerians.
Odenigbo disparages the dibia, but Olanna says she will believe in anything if it brings back her sister. She is reminded of the old Igbo belief that people are reincarnated, and she declares that in her next life Kainene will be her sister. The book ends with the dedication of The World Was Silent When We Died. Ugwu, the author, dedicates it to “Master, my good man.”
The book ends with these small notes of hope amidst the wreckage of so much suffering. Olanna (and Adichie) seems to say that even if things cannot be made right in this lifetime, there is still the possibility that we can learn from history and not repeat its mistakes. Ugwu now becomes a hopeful and empowering character, as he has grown past his poverty, suffering, and sin to write the narrative of the Biafran War. He is no longer the houseboy idolizing Odenigbo’s English – Ugwu is now the “Master,” controlling his own identity and working for the good of his family and culture, using English phrases like “my good man” for his own purposes, subverting the colonizer’s tools to strengthen Nigeria – just as Adichie herself does as a Nigerian writing in English, bringing awareness, humanity, and beauty to a past tragedy.