Father is barely recognizable, but he’s still Father. Parvana clings to him tightly. Mrs. Weera helps Father lie down and the two men who helped Father say that they found Father outside the prison, unable to go anywhere. They brought him in a cart. As the men have tea with Mrs. Weera, Parvana clings to Father and weeps, but she gets up and thanks the men before they leave. Over the next several days, Mrs. Weera nurses Father. He coughs and is very tired. Parvana feeds him warm broth, and eventually he grows strong enough to sit up, speak, and notice that Parvana is now a son. Parvana carries a lot of water too, since Father’s body is covered in injuries and the dressings need constant washing. Homa keeps Mrs. Weera’s granddaughter occupied so Father can rest.
Father’s return reminds Parvana that it’s possible—and necessary—to hope for the better. Sometimes, miracles do happen, and families can be reunited. And now that Parvana has Father to care for, it no longer seems like a burden to draw water. She’s doing it to serve her family, and after being without for so long, this seems even more meaningful than it once did. Homa’s behavior proves that there are many more helpful people in Kabul and Afghanistan, if only people are willing to trust each other.
Parvana is elated to have Father back. Homa has had some education, so one day, Parvana returns home to find Father and Homa speaking English to each other. Father jokingly asks Parvana if she brought another educated woman home. Everyone laughs when Parvana says she just brought home onions. This is the first time in a long time that people in Parvana’s home have laughed. Now that Father is home, Parvana is hopeful that the rest of her family will return, too. She begins to chase after customers like the other boys and earns enough to purchase medicine for Father. She tells Shauzia one day that she feels like she’s working for her family now.
With Father to care for, Parvana’s sense of dignity and purpose returns. This again speaks to the power of familial relationships. Parvana’s love for and loyalty to Father gives her the stamina and the drive to dedicate herself to her work, accept the responsibility and the independence, and do what she needs to do. And now that she’s turned this corner, things seem much brighter at home, too. Laughing is, in its own way, a form of resistance—they can find joy where they may have thought before that there was just tragedy.
Shauzia says in reply that she’s working to get away from Afghanistan. She recently heard her grandfather say that he’s looking for a husband for her, and since Shauzia is so young, her bride price will be substantial. She says that her mother can’t stand up for her, since her mother has nowhere else to go. Shauzia doesn’t know what else she can do. Marriage will end her life, while getting out will give her a chance. Parvana doesn’t know how to comfort Shauzia.
Unlike for Nooria, Shauzia’s marriage would mean the end of her life and her independence as she knows it. Because of this, this is the final event that shows Shauzia that if she wants to maintain her independence, she must abandon her family and focus on friends instead. Even if Parvana doesn’t know exactly how to comfort Shauzia, her attempts to do so are still more meaningful than what Shauzia’s family is doing.
A few days later, a woman from the women’s group visits Mrs. Weera with news that many people have fled Mazar and are living in refugee camps. Father says he’ll never be truly well enough to go, but they should go look for Mother and the others anyway. They’ll go as soon as he comes up with a way to travel. Father asks Parvana to carry a message to the men who helped him get home from prison. Parvana asks why the Taliban let Father go, but Father says he doesn’t know—he doesn’t even know why he was arrested in the first place.
Because family is so important to Father and Parvana, they immediately resolve to go look for Mother and Nooria. There’s simply no other option, since Mother, Nooria, and the children are some of the only people that Father and Parvana can trust. Father’s lack of information about the Taliban’s reasoning suggests that they’re not acting on reason at all—they simply want to assert that they’re powerful.
Mrs. Weera, meanwhile, makes plans to go to Pakistan with Homa. She has a cousin in a refugee camp, and they’ll meet up with other women’s group members. If there’s no school, they’ll start one. Parvana suggests that Mrs. Weera take Shauzia, but Mrs. Weera is incredulous that Shauzia is going to abandon her family. Parvana half agrees with Mrs. Weera, but she also thinks that Shauzia has a right to look for a better life. She can’t decide who’s right.
For as supportive as Mrs. Weera is of young girls having independence and say in their lives, it’s somewhat surprising that she’s so against taking Shauzia. However, Mrs. Weera reveals that she simply believes it’s necessary to care for one’s family instead. Parvana’s willingness to not take a side shows that she’s becoming more comfortable with situations that have moral questions with no clear answers.
Several days before she and Father leave, Parvana feels something hit her head. It’s a tiny camel made of beads. Parvana is relieved that the Window Woman is alive and well enough to toss a gift down, and she tries to come up with a way to say goodbye. After lunch, she digs up wildflowers. She decides to plant them where she usually lays out her blanket; that way, the Window Woman will know she’s not coming back. Parvana struggles to dig in the hard soil and several men watch and tease her. One old man helps Parvana plant the flowers and notes that Afghanistan has seen so much ugliness that Afghans have forgotten to enjoy beautiful things. He assures Parvana that though the plant looks scraggly now, it’ll soon grow strong and healthy. When Parvana is certain that no one is watching, she waves at the window.
While Mother and Nooria also often talk about how Afghanistan and Kabul used to be, this old man is the first to incorporate an older understanding of what the country is like with what it can be in the future. In helping Parvana plant the flowers and insisting that it’s a very Afghan thing to do, the old man helps Parvana understand that as she grows up and becomes a proud, strong, confident Afghan woman, she needs to look for the beauty everywhere and spread beauty whenever she has the opportunity to do so. She also needs to care for her friends in every way possible, as she does here with the Window Woman.
Two days later, Parvana and Father are ready to leave. Father tells Parvana that whether she chooses to travel as a boy or a girl, she’s still his “little Malali.” Mrs. Weera shows Parvana Mother’s magazine and asks Parvana to tell Mother that copies are headed all over the world. Parvana hugs Mrs. Weera and Homa and hops into the truck. Shauzia appears with apricots for Parvana. She announces that she met nomads who will take her to Pakistan. Panicked, Parvana asks when they’ll see each other again. Shauzia says that in 20 years, they’ll meet in Paris on the first day of spring. They hug and then the truck pulls out. Parvana wonders where she’ll be in 20 years and what Afghanistan will look like then. The future stretches out before Parvana and Parvana feels ready to meet it. She watches Mount Parvana sparkling in the sun.
It’s telling that Parvana’s departure is one heavily attended by friends—final proof that friends can be just as meaningful and supportive as one’s family. Now that Parvana has grown up and discovered a sense of agency, she’s able to look to her future with more hope. This is because she now feels more prepared to meet that future after all she learned during her time as Kaseem. However mature she may seem here, though, Shauzia’s insistence that they’ll meet in Paris in 20 years drives home that no matter what the girls have experienced, they’re still children—true maturity is still ahead.