The death toll is now at 648. Kathy continues to check in with the Red Cross. The girls are now at school, but they have grown more quiet and subdued, trying to prepare for a life without their father. Kathy frets about having to find a house in Arizona, and about the burden she’s being on Yuko’s family.
The attitudes of the girls contrast to their carefree, happy-go-lucky nature at the beginning of the book. They have not been faced with positive evidence of their father’s death, but still have to grapple with the possibility, while living in a strange environment and state of uncertainty at the same time.
Kathy thinks back to the massive support network of Zeitoun’s family in Syria. She had gone with him and the kids in 2003, and the visit shattered a number of stereotypes for her. She had pictured deserts and donkeys, not cosmopolitan cities and modern women along with brick and mud homes. The road to Jableh was beautiful, and she was surprised to see churches in addition to mosques. She realized that Syria was a deeply Mediterranean, culturally diverse country.
Although Zeitoun’s large family has been a source of anxiety for Kathy in the past few days, she now recalls what a gift this family is, and how much she learned from them and from visiting Syria in general. Like her introduction to Islam, this visit forced Kathy to confront cultural prejudices and recognize the beauty and diversity of another culture.
In Jableh they had stayed with Abdulrahman’s brother, and had visited cousins all throughout town. Kathy had loved his family. Now she wonders if she could take the kids there—a radical idea, but one that begins to give her comfort. Meanwhile, Zeitoun’s family grows increasingly despondent.
Although Kathy has created a vibrant social life with Zeitoun in New Orleans, it’s difficult for her to imagine returning there without Zeitoun—his family in Syria is at least a secondary way of keeping him close.