Summary: Chapter 10

In Marin, Saeed and Nadia set up a shanty of packing crates and a metal roof. They get a solar panel with a battery for electricity and rainwater collectors for water. Nadia gets a job at a grocery co-op in Sausalito. Marin has a sense of optimism about it.

As Nadia brings home some marijuana a coworker gave her, she realizes she doesn’t know how Saeed will react to it. He has become more melancholic and devout. His religiousness has started to feel like a reproach. They sit on the sofa next to each other. Saeed laughs joyfully when he sees the marijuana, and they smoke like they once did back in their old city. Nadia wants to hug him but doesn’t. 

The narrator observes that Marin has almost no natives because most of the town’s native population faced displacement and genocide. However, other people who live there consider themselves native. A group considered native are the descendants of enslaved Africans. 

Saeed finds a place of worship primarily composed of Black Americans. Saeed enjoys the preacher’s words and likes that the congregation does a lot of charity work. The preacher's wife, now deceased, originally came from Saeed’s country. Saeed joins the volunteer group, along with the preacher’s daughter, who is around his age. He thinks she’s beautiful but feels guilty about it.

Nadia notices Saeed seems happier and also feels guilty. He reminds her of the old Saeed, but she is not the old Nadia. She no longer desires him and thinks of him as a brother. Her understanding of her sexuality is changing. While she still finds men attractive, she begins to think more and more of the girl from Mykonos. 

Saeed begins to pray more often. He has prayed throughout his life, and praying connects him to his past, his parents, and all of humanity. It reminds him of mortality. He cannot explain this to Nadia, but the preacher’s daughter understands him. She asks him to tell her about her mother’s country, and they talk well into the night.

Saeed and Nadia don’t cheat on each other. They both want to see each other safe and struggle to leave someone they have experienced so much with. They become more friends than lovers, a fact that will always make them wonder if they could have made it work. They give each other space and talk less but try to value what they know are their last moments as a couple. 

One night a tiny surveillance drone crashes into the tarp door of their shanty, and Nadia suggests they bury it. Saeed agrees. Nadia asks if Saeed will pray for it, and he says he might.

They sometimes sit outside their shanty and look down at the bay. Saeed points out Treasure Island, and Nadia suggests that a different, more mysterious island should have that name. Saeed takes her hand, and they sit together. Nadia suggests they go down to the commercial district where there’s food from around the world. 

In nearby Palo Alto, California, lives an old woman who has never moved in her entire life. In her time, she has seen her neighborhood change around her even though she has stayed in the same place. She has, effectively, migrated through time. 

Analysis: Chapter 10

Marin’s atmosphere differs from the other settings in the novel because it has embraced the influx of refugees. The ease with which Saeed and Nadia set up their home and utilities has a restful, hopeful tone. Their shanty, with its packing crate walls, at first seems like a relic of a refugee or work camp, but the ingenious tools to create electricity and purify rainwater transform it into something entirely new and even futuristic. The technology in the novel thus far has all been familiar, but Marin’s shantytown uses technology in a way not immediately recognizable to readers that feels almost like science fiction. The futuristic set up mirrors the way that life in Marin imagines a world very different from ours today, with flexible borders accepted as a reality that people have decided to adapt to and build around. Furthermore, where surveillance drones in previous chapters always signified danger, Saeed and Nadia here treat the one that crashes as benign, even burying it. This change in attitude signals a world where citizens can trust that the government will not harm them. The hopeful tone of this chapter encourages the reader to see Marin as a prayer for a world that could be. 

Although Nadia characterizes Saeed as melancholic, this chapter shows him coping with migration better than he has previously because he has found a way to both embrace the old and the new. Although the narrator noted previously that Saeed enjoyed praying at the house in London with his countrymen because praying makes him feel connected to humanity, Saeed specifically had to find people from his country to achieve that peaceful feeling. In Marin, he manages to find a similar peaceful feeling in a congregation both different and familiar to him. The congregation’s emphasis on using their religion for charitable work is congruent with his understanding of religion because charity work involves connecting with humanity. However, Saeed didn’t previously consider active charitable works as part of his religious practice, and thus this congregation expands upon and changes his understanding of religion. The preacher’s daughter embodies Saeed’s newfound ability to find home in something both familiar and new because her mother shared a nationality with Saeed, but she is a product of a new nation.

Chapter 10 marks the functional end of Nadia and Saeed’s relationship because reclaiming stability does not fix the ways they have grown apart from each other. Nadia offers Saeed marijuana in a clear attempt to recreate a moment from the past in which they felt close and intimate. While they both enjoy it, Nadia neither hugs Saeed nor initiates sexual contact, signifying that her feelings for him have changed. Although Nadia and Saeed have been around plenty of other people in their refugee journey, they have not expressed romantic interest in anyone but each other. However, now with the freedom to meet new people without existential fear, Saeed immediately finds another woman attractive. With the freedom to explore, Nadia expands her understanding of her own sexuality to include bisexuality, and she seems to think about the Mykonos girl more often than Saeed or other men. Just as the London work camp caused them to see each other’s personalities differently, the freedom of Marin allows them to understand themselves and their own desires differently. Their tacit understanding that their relationship is ending also emphasizes that they have found stability, signifying that Nadia has fulfilled her promise to Saeed’s father.