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Hugging her purse the way a pregnant woman might hold her swollen belly.
The simile brings together money and children thus devaluing the latter through association and conveying Naila’s arid life. This is the first time the readers encounter the idea that Mrs Wahdati might benefit from the presence of a child and thus it also foreshadows Nabi’s creative solution and Pari’s adoption by the wealthy couple.
Parwana … keeps walking, the darkness around her like a mother’s womb.
Parwana just left her sister in the desert and is now walking toward her future, a future in which she is not tied down by the responsibility of a paralyzed twin. However, the ‘darkness’ might symbolize either the uncertainty of what is to come or the immorality of her actions, she caused Masoona’s injury out of jealousy and as such taking care of her was a fit punishment. The comparison to a ‘mother’s womb’ only reinforces the idea of new beginnings and new prospects but it could also be interpreted as offering protection and, to some extent, shielding Parwana from her own conscience and guilt.
"Them – the wealthy, wide eyed exiles – come home to gawk at the carnage now that the boogeymen have left."
Through word choice such as ‘gawk’ the author depicts the cousins as incapable of understanding, gazing stupidly at the mayhem. Their sheltered life in America makes Idris feel out of place in Kabul where the cruel day by day reality has toughened the survivors. By contrast, their ‘wide eyed’ amazement mimics that of a child thus showing innocence and a privileged existence. Indeed, the war which caused all that carnage is a metaphorical ‘boogeymen’, a character from a story used to scare children. From one point of view, this might be interpreted as diminishing the sacrifice and reality of war and yet, one could argue that, despite being frequently associated with children, the boogeymen still conveys fear, especially because it is an evil spirit and thus hard to vanquish.
"A senseless act of violence. A senseless murder. As if you could commit sensible murder."
Here Idris discusses the semantics used to report tragic incidents such as the domestic crime in Roshi’s house. His point is that violence is never justified and so the world ‘senseless’ becomes redundant as the very concept of murder automatically implies that it is senseless due to the life that is lost.
Even resentful that he, Idris, may have robbed him of a spectacular opportunity to play hero.
This early portrayal of Timur clashes with his action. As we later learn, it is him and not his cousin who ultimately helps Roshi. This calls into question the idea that he wants to play hero and thus also shows the bias of a first person narrative. Indeed, throughout the novel, we can observe a number of situations in which people are not what they seem: Timur is a kind, genuine individual; Commander Sahib is a war criminal; Naila is an unfulfilled woman who is incapable to find happiness even with Pari by her side; and Madaline is a vain mother who ultimately abandons her daughter.
"A thousand tragedies per square mile"
This hyperbola is repeated twice during chapter five, once by each cousin. This somewhat elevates its status to that of a mantra that is meant to convey the gravity of the situation and the sheer amount of sorrowful events.
"Feels like discussing a recently watched, emotionally drenching film whose effects are beginning to wane."
By comparing Roshi’s life to a movie, Idris distances himself from the action and becomes the passive, American onlooker. This might be a veiled criticism of a global society that watches the events in the Middle East with regret and yet they perceive them more as fiction rather than reality and do nothing to help ordinary people. The commitment and determination displayed by Idris in Kabul slowly disappear and so he abandons Roshi.
"That her looks were woven of common cloths. At times it was Mama herself who did the reminding, though it always came hidden in a Trojan horse of compliments."
Pari’s description of her interaction with her mother shows that the two were mismatches. Naila’s looks overshadowed Pari who in comparison seemed ‘common’. However, what is even more telling is the association between the mother’s words and a Trojan horse: what seems to be a token of peace in fact masks danger and hate.
"A spectacularly foolish and baseless faith, against enormous odds, that a world you do not control will take from you the one thing you cannot bear to lose."
Pari’s fears might seem unjustified to her but for the readers who know her story they seem rooted in an unconscious understanding that something essential to her being was taken away from her a long time ago. The bond between her and Abdullah has been severed by time and by her young age at the moment of adoption but deep down an invisible link that spans continents still exists. This is the essence of fraternal love.
"They tell me I must wade into waters, where I will soon drown. Before I march in, I leave this on the shore for you. I pray you find it, sister, so you will know what was in my heart as I went under."
The proverbial waters in which he will drown might represent either his deteriorating mental state or his life without his beloved sister. While the reunion of the siblings is shadowed by Abdullah’s inability to recognize his sister, the note gives a partial sense of closure. Both Pari and the readers understand that Abdullah hoped to find his sister until the last moment and thus her feather collection became a symbol of their love that in the end transcended time and space.
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