Chapters 15–21 Summary

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Last Updated on February 24, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 752

Chapter 15 

Hadib goes before his family to the town of Ujra, the interim destination for the people of the wadi. Fawaz travels after him with his mother and most of his siblings, leaving Shalaan behind to collect compensation for the land they have lost. The family spends four days with relatives in Ujra. At night, Fawaz hears his mother crying. The narrator says that Fawaz becomes a man that night.

Chapter 16 

After Ujra, the people of the wadi are meant to go to a town called al-Hadra. In Ujra, they buy supplies, but they find it a disappointing experience compared to the gentle ways of negotiating familiar to them from the wadi. The small caravan travels quietly and sadly, Wadha not speaking at all. They have to wait at Rawdhat al-Mashti, the next stop, for another caravan to arrive and take them to al-Hadra. Wadha grows ill and raves to her husband in her feverish sleep.

Chapter 17 

When they depart for al-Hadra, they travel silently again. Wadha’s illness has ended, but she remains quiet. In al-Hadra, they meet relatives, who express surprise that Miteb is not there. Wadha grieves at the question, but she does not explain why. She is incapable of talking, making noises like a pre-verbal child but unable to communicate. The people of al-Hadra argue over why—whether she is depressed or possessed or simply ill. A fortune teller says that Miteb will come back. Fawaz takes the task of caring for the family upon himself. The relatives in al-Hadra do not understand why the al-Hathal family is so suspicious of the happenings around them.

Chapter 18 

Shalaan has stayed in Wadi al-Uyoun. The narrator says that years later, Shalaan will be unable to remember whether he first stayed there to collect compensation or for a job in the Americans’ company, but both reasons keep him there. His very name changes when he works with them, for he is nicknamed “Company Shaalan” or “American Shaalan” because of his association with the company. Shaalan sends a message to Fawaz telling him to come back to the wadi in order to find work with the company. Fawaz and his cousin Suweyleh, Hadib’s son, set out on a journey to the wadi, promising Hadib that they will travel no farther. They arrive in a wadi that Fawaz does not recognize, utterly stripped of the things he knew and loved. He does not recognize the people who are there either. Shaalan gets Fawaz and Suweyleh into the camp, but no one speaks to them. Fawaz asks Shaalan for news of their father, but Shaalan puts him off.

Chapter 19 

In the night, Shaalan, Fawaz, and Suweyleh talk about the state of things now that the Americans have taken over the wadi. They speculate with frustration about why the Americans are destroying everything. The narrator reveals that Shaalan has seen his father appear to him in the night, far away, multiple times. Whenever Shaalan goes toward him, Miteb disappears. This night, Shaalan has chosen to take his brother and cousin away from the main camp in the hope that his father will appear to them. They ask him about Miteb. He tells them that he has seen him and that they will see him as well.

Chapter 20 

The days pass, and the three boys are constantly waiting for Miteb to appear. One evening, Shaalan believes he sees Miteb far away, but the others do not. Haunted, the three continue to wait to see him for weeks. It seems that Suweyleh has spoken to someone of this, for Ibn Rashed (whom they also call Abu Muhammad) appears, seeming to know of the boys’ state. He confronts them and verbally tussles with the al-Hathal boys, insulting them and their Atoum tribe. Then he departs the camp. The three continue to wait. Ibn Rashed returns after some time and tells Fawaz and Suweyleh that the company will not employ them. Fawaz and Suweyleh depart for Ujra, planning to return to al-Hadra.

Chapter 21 

At the stopping point of Rawdhat al-Mashti, the rains pour madly, to the joy of its populace. Its wadi floods, and the people run from its waves. On the other side of the wadi, Miteb appears, telling the people not to be afraid and that this is the last of their happiness. Fawaz runs toward his father, wanting to speak to him, but Suweyleh and three other men hold him back from diving into the flooding wadi. Miteb disappears. Fawaz runs away, pursued by Suweyleh.

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