Hakim, Laila, and Tariq take a trip to a surprise location. They pass historic Afghan landmarks, and Hakim points them out. Their driver tells them that Afghanistan was battered but is still standing like the mountains. They arrive at the famous two Buddhas, and they climb up to the top. The cliffs used to house monks which carved the Buddhas. Hakim reminisces about bringing Fariba to this place, and he speaks of her fondly. Hakim confesses that he is also upset about the death of Ahmad and Noor, but he is also extremely thankful for Laila.
Hakim speaks of leaving Afghanistan, but they know it would be impossible because of Fariba. Laila does not want to tell Hakim that she does not want to leave Afghanistan, because she knows she'd miss Tariq too much. Laila reveals to the readers that Fariba accused Hakim of having no convictions, but in fact Fariba is Hakim's conviction.
In April, 1988 the Soviets sign a treaty to leave Afghanistan, but Fariba is not pleased. She feels that the current president is just a Soviet pawn. The next year, Laila and her family go to watch the Soviets leave Kabul, with many other people from the city. Soon after, Tariq's father suffers a heart attack. By 1992 Tariq's father has had a series of strokes which impairs his speech and mobility.
Tariq and Laila go to a movie, and during a romantic scene, Tariq says he would never get married. Laila agrees, but secretly is disappointed. Laila wonders what it might be like to kiss Tariq. Laila's friend Hasina gets married and expects that she will move to Germany.
The U.S.S.R. collapses. President Najibullah attempts to appear to be a faithful Muslim and tries to make an agreement with the Mujahideen. Fariba prays for the success of the Mujahideen. Najibullah ultimately surrenders and the communist regime and jihad end. Afghanistan becomes the Islamic State of Afghanistan overseen by a Jihad Council which is later to be replaced by other councils and ultimately by elections.
The Mujahideen members come to Kabil, and Fariba feels this day had finally come to bring peace to Noor and Ahmad. Fariba stops mourning and throws a party. She rises out of bed and discusses marriage and Tariq with Laila. Laila reassures that Tariq was like her brother, but Fariba warns Laila to avoid gossip. Laila realizes that she has fallen in love with Tariq and she begins to notice that other people have noticed as well.
Giti has a crush on an eighteen year old boy named Sabir, and she hopes to marry him. Laila tries to pay less attention to Tariq, but she secretly dreams of marrying him. Tariq's mother seems to approve of Laila's secret glancing at Tariq. Tariq begins to smoke, and he makes new friends that Laila hates. Tariq tells Laila that the women gossip about their behavior as being sinful. Tariq confesses that he only has eyes for her, but Laila cannot tell if he is being sincere. Soon after Tariq's confession, Tariq and Laila kiss.
Two men at the party begin to fight. One is a Pashtun and the other is a Tajik, and they enter a political discussion which gets heated. Tariq joins in their fight. Tariq is not seriously hurt. Bombs fall in Kabul, and Massoud's patrols are everywhere. Tariq starts to carry a gun for safety, and in June of 1992 the Pashtuns and Hazaras fight in Kabul. Soon after, the leadership of Afghanistan begins to crumble, and the Mujihadeen begin to fight amongst themselves. Fariba mourns again.
Hakim wants to leave Kabul, but Fariba will not leave. Laila drops out of school because the streets are too dangerous. Hakim tutors Laila, but all she can think of is Tariq. Laila's friend Giti is killed by a bomb and Laila is absolutely devastated. Soon after Giti's death, Tariq tells Laila that is leaving Kabul for Pakistan. He tells her that he is leaving the next day. Laila is extremely distraught.
After Laila becomes upset, she and Tariq have sex. Tariq asks Laila to come with him to Pakistan and marry him. Laila wants to leave, but she realizes her father's life would be over if she left the family. Tariq expects this response, and Laila forces Tariq to leave without an extended goodbye. Tariq yells from outside the front door that he will come back for Laila.
The significance of family bonds in decision-making becomes a key theme in this portion of the novel. Fariba presents a new reason for why she cannot leave Afghanistan. Despite that her family is threatened by the bombs falling in Kabul, Fariba swears she will see the land of Afghanistan freed for Ahmad and Noor. Her patriotism, then, involves more a belief in familial pride than an individual tie to the land or the community.
Fariba comes back to life after the Mujihadeen victory, which allows for readers to witness a new side of her - one that has been absent from the novel since Ahmad and Noor's deaths. Her party-planning and sudden intense interest in Laila's social life symbolizes how the hope of the Afghan people combines personal promise and political promise.
Laila, while also relying on familial ties, has a different reason for staying in Afghanistan, despite Tariq's proposal that she come with him to the safety of Pakistan. Laila is tied to her father who clearly can not leave Afghanistan because of Fariba, her mother. All of these characters are tied to Afghanistan for different, but familial reasons. This differs from Ahmad and Noor's ideological sacrifice for Afghanistan.
Laila and Tariq express their love physically, a direct consequence of their sorrow upon having to leave each other. The sheer emotion that drives this act symbolizes the true nature of their love. When Laila and Tariq have sex it can be much more closely related to making love than the harsh and forced sex had by Mariam and Rasheed. Though the act of Tariq and Laila is forbidden, and certainly considered illegitimate in Afghan society, it seems to the reader as a genuine act of love. The tone that depicts the lovemaking is not pornographic or heated, but rather passionate and loving.
Tariq and Laila's separation suggests that both will suffer now that they cannot be together. Additionally, Tariq's persistence in promising that he would come back for Laila foreshadows his reappearance later in the novel. Last, when Tariq leaves, Laila's solid foundation is practically pulled out from under her. This act foreshadows the crumbling of everything else around her and the implication that her life is about to take on a precipitous descent.