As they encounter racism and the harsh realities of being viewed as outsiders, Jassim and Salwa turn away from each other and begin to lead parallel lives. Jassim accidentally hits a teenage boy with his car and kills him. He keeps this secret from Salwa and finds a way to deal with his own grief; his "suspicious actions" lead to an unfounded FBI investigation that costs him his American dream. Salwa too keeps several secrets from Jassim: she becomes pregnant against her husband's wishes and is then consumed by an eventual miscarriage. Her grief and despair causes her to succumb to the affections of a younger co-worker and causes her to question her purpose in America. By detailing their failing marriage amidst national turmoil, Laila Halaby deftly describes Jassim and Salwa's isolation not only from American society but also from each other.
Though complex, Jassim and Salwa's actions never become wholly believable despite the reality of their circumstances. There is a disconnect between their actions and emotions that makes the reader want to shake them by the shoulders and tell them to wake up. This is what will make readers both empathize and criticize the protagonists --that is, we can identify with them, yet shake our heads at their choices.