Nazneen gives birth to a baby boy, whom she names Raqib, but nicknames Ruku. Chanu is very loving with his son, but is primarily interested in speculating about the baby's future. Mrs. Islam also becomes quite assertive and interfering, which Nazneen finds frustrating. Eventually, Nazneen stands up for herself, and insists on caring for the baby the way she wants to.
Chanu is still preoccupied with dreams of how he can build a closer relationship with Dr. Azad and advance his career. However, Nazneen is increasingly convinced that nothing will come of these dreams.
She hears regularly from Hasina, and her sister's independence makes her feel resentful. Fortunately, Nazneen can still spend time with Razia. One day, Razia alludes to a piece of gossip she has heard about Mrs. Islam, but is reluctant to give any details.
Chanu finally resolves that he, Nazneen, and the baby will pay a surprise visit to the home of Dr. Azad. As they travel there, Nazneen reminisces about disturbing memories from her childhood. She recalls a visit from her mother's sister where her mother and aunt suggested that they were both unhappy with their fate as women. Nazneen also recalls a grim encounter with a local man who had kidnapped and assaulted a young woman. He was hung up from a tree, but not yet dead when Nazneen encountered him, and he begged her to save him. Nazneen hesitated, and a group of village men eventually arrived to finish killing him.
When Nazneen and Chanu arrive, they are surprised to find that Dr. Azad's wife is a brusque and rude woman who insists on the importance of embracing modernity and British culture. The visit confuses Chanu and shakes his perception of Azad as a sophisticated and refined man.
A short time later, baby Raqib suddenly gets sick. Nazneen and Chanu rush him to the hospital and spend all their time taking care of him. The experience draws the couple closer together, and Nazneen starts to feel true affection for her husband for the first time.
Nazneen also keeps up to date on community gossip via Razia. Razia shares her belief that Mrs. Islam is a money lender who charges high interest, and uses physical force against those who fail to pay their debts. Nazneen is doubtful, but when she talks to Chanu, he seems unmoved by the idea. He also abruptly announces that he has resigned from his job.
While Raqib is still in the hospital, Razia reveals that her husband has died in a workplace accident. After fighting with him about whether or not she can work, she will now have no choice.
Expecting that Raqib will soon be released from the hospital, Nazneen goes home to wash and change. She is feeling happy and confident, proud of herself for having fought to save her son. Impulsively, she tries on a pair of Chanu's trousers. When she arrives at the hospital, she is shocked to hear from Chanu that Raqib has suddenly died.
Motherhood gives Nazneen a newfound sense of ambition and agency. She may have been willing to accept whatever life handed to her when it was only her own interests at stake, but she cannot help but want security and comfort for her son. Nazneen's resentment of Chanu has brewed over time, especially when he refused to help Hasina, but after the birth of her son, Nazneen reflects on the reality that Chanu is never going to live up to his ambitions. In many ways, despite her sheltered life and limited education, Nazneen is more savvy and astute than her husband. He often misses social cues, and is not skilled at observing what is actually important in a situation. His insistence on pursuing a relationship with Dr. Azad is a darkly comical example of Chanu's naivety and social awkwardness. Nazneen is in the frustrating position of knowing that she is actually more competent than her husband, but still being unable to make any decisions or do anything to affect the fate of the family.
Nazneen's motherhood and increasing frustrations gives her an opportunity to bond more closely with Razia. Whereas Chanu is at least kind, Razia's husband is violent and selfish. Razia is also more openly defiant than Nazneen is: she is insistent that she will find a way to educate herself and seek work. Nazneen may find herself drawn to Razia because her friend shares some qualities with Hasina: like her sister, Razia is confident, willful, and willing to take risks to get what she wants.
Razia's strength becomes a vital asset after the unexpected death of her husband. This incident highlights the precarity created when women like Nazneen and Razia become totally dependent on their husbands: they are left incredibly vulnerable if that husband is ever unable to continue to provide. The death of Razia's husband is an exaggerated parallel to Chanu's incompetence: both aspects highlight the need for women to balance both the appearance of subservience with private reserves of strength and skills.
Meanwhile, Hasina is experiencing her own struggles with balancing independence back in Bangladesh. Despite her hopefulness, Hasina's first marriage fails, hinting that love is not enough to ensure a happy or a secure future. Unlike many of the women in Nazneen's community who quietly endure unhappiness, Hasina shows her spirit and willfulness again by choosing to leave her abusive husband. This is an extremely risky choice as she cannot return to her family, and it was very taboo for a women to live alone and try to make her way in the world. However, Hasina's optimistic letters to Nazneen show her embracing hopes of making a better life for herself. Indeed, Hasina is so optimistic as to seem somewhat naive. Not unlike Chanu, she is willing to latch on to any hope of a brighter future and overlook the ways in which systems of power are ultimately going to exploit her. As Michael Perfect explains, "Suffering seems to await Hasina at every juncture, and her faith that Allah will 'show her the way' is repeatedly portrayed as blind naivety" (111).
All of these events pale in comparison to the illness and loss of Nazneen and Chanu's infant son. Nazneen first starts to claim a sense of power when her son is born, and she takes initial steps at self-assertion when she refuses to let the domineering Mrs. Islam tell her how to care for her son. Ruku's illness offers a parallel to what Rupban experienced when Nazneen herself was an infant, but Nazneen makes a very different choice. She immediately rushes Ruku to the hospital, and does everything in her power to fight for her son. Indeed, the experience makes Nazneen angrily question her mother's decision, showing that she is starting to wonder if accepting one's fate is really the way to happiness. Nazneen makes an abrupt change to an almost hubristic sense of her own power: she feels like she has willed Ruku back to health. This gives her a dramatic surge in happiness and a new hope for the future. However, at the very moment where Nazneen rejects the idea of fate, fate asserts its ruthless power. When it seems like all the danger is over, Nazneen is suddenly confronted with a terrible loss. The narrative humbles her, forcing her back to trying to understand what balance between choice and surrender.