Study Guide

A Thousand Splendid Suns

by Khaled Hosseini

A Thousand Splendid Suns Summary

Summary (Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

A Thousand Splendid Suns

Mariam and her mother, Nana, a former housekeeper for Mariam’s wealthy father, Jalil, have been banished to a hut near a small Afghan village to avoid humiliating Jalil’s three wives and nine children in Herat. Nana bitterly disparages both Mariam and Jalil, who visits his daughter weekly. Even though the village mullah urges Nana to send the girl to school, she refuses, insisting that the only skill a woman needs is endurance.

To celebrate her fifteenth birthday, Mariam begs Jalil to take her to a cinema in Herat, but both parents strenuously object. When Jalil fails to meet her, Mariam walks alone to the city, only to be told that her father is not at home. On her return she discovers that Nana has killed herself.

Reluctantly, Jalil takes Mariam into his home. The three wives, who wish to get rid of her permanently, inform her that they have found a suitor, Rasheed, a forty-five-year-old shoemaker from Kabul, whom she will marry tomorrow. At the wedding, she is ignored by her father. She mopes in Kabul until Rasheed instructs her to behave like a wife. His only son had drowned, and he wants another son. Waiting at the communal oven, Mariam encounters Fariba, a politically and socially liberal neighbor, whose husband, Hakim, is a teacher.

Conservative Rasheed buys Mariam a burka, a floor-length garment that covers her completely; he orders her to wear the garment in public. He also thoroughly disapproves of Fariba, who merely covers her hair with a scarf. Rasheed takes Mariam to a restaurant, buys her a beautiful shawl, and shares her bed that night, but when she miscarries in the public bathhouse, his attitude changes. After four years of marriage and six more miscarriages, which he regards as personal insults, he believes Mariam is a useless nineteen year old; he frequently beats her.

Meanwhile, Hakim and Fariba have a daughter, Laila. Fariba is full of fire until their two sons go on jihad against the invading Soviets. Then, blaming Hakim for permitting them to leave, she retreats to her bed. After the brothers are killed, Laila becomes a caregiver for her parents, preparing her father’s dinner while he helps her with schoolwork. A calm and patient scholar, Hakim urges her to get an education before marrying.

When the Soviets are finally driven from Afghanistan, unrest returns to Kabul, as local warlords turn against each other. Fariba supports the Mujahideen, the Islamic militia that her sons had joined, but Hakim fears them and wants to leave Kabul. As ethnic violence continues, Laila is forced to drop out of school after a fellow student is blown to bits in the street.

Laila’s closest friend, the neighbor boy Tariq, has an artificial leg because of a Soviet land mine. Tariq and Laila become intimate after Tariq announces that his family is going to a refugee camp in Pakistan. Although he begs Laila to come with them, she cannot leave her father, who seems lost without Fariba’s support. Hakim and Fariba are killed when their home is shelled, and Rasheed finds Laila injured in the rubble. Mariam reluctantly tends her as she recovers. Later, Laila is informed that Tariq has died in a Pakistani hospital. Observing her husband with Laila, Mariam realizes that Rasheed, now sixty years old, is courting the fourteen-year-old girl. Mariam attempts to dissuade him, but she is at his mercy, as is Laila, who accepts his marriage offer because she is pregnant with Tariq’s baby. She hopes to deceive Rasheed.

Rasheed keeps his new bride at home, and Mariam serves them both. The two women resent each other until Laila’s baby girl, Aziza, brings them together. In time, Mariam becomes another mother to Laila and a grandmother to the child. Laila begs her to escape with them to Pakistan. They prepare to flee but cannot travel without a male relative. A young husband offers to help but betrays them, keeping their money. They are questioned by police and returned to Rasheed, who hurls Aziza across the room and imprisons the women for three days.

The fundamentalist Taliban seizes Kabul, leading Rasheed to view them as liberators. They distribute strict rules: All men must have beards; no school for girls; no jobs for women, who must stay in their homes unless with a male relative. The university is closed, books other than the Qur՚n are burned, and musicians are imprisoned. Rasheed threatens to send Aziza away or to lie about Laila’s behavior to the authorities. Then Laila discovers she is pregnant with Rasheed’s child.

In labor, Laila goes to the former women’s hospital and is turned away because the hospital now accepts male patients only. She is sent to a small hospital without medicine, clean water, or electricity. She requires a caesarean section and must suffer through the surgery without anesthetics. Her female doctor, who is required to perform her duties while wearing a burka, is unable to properly see through the garment, so a nurse guards the door to warn of any approaching Taliban. Laila gives birth to a boy, Zalmai.

Two-year-old Zalmai loves both parents but favors Rasheed, who is gentle with him while holding his wives in contempt. Although in debt, Rasheed brings home a television for his son, but decides that daughter Aziza, who is six years old, will beg on the streets. Laila objects, and Rasheed slaps her. They struggle, then he shoves a gun barrel in her mouth. Mariam ends up digging a hole to hide the forbidden television.

Rasheed’s shop burns, and he must sell nearly everything. He steals food, but the family begins to starve. Finally, Aziza is sent to an orphanage so she will get some food. The director seems kind and comforts Laila, who is weeping, but Aziza panics when her mother leaves. Laila is permitted to visit her daughter but cannot travel without Rasheed, who often deliberately stops and turns back, forcing her to do the same. Without him, she risks a beating from the Taliban, but she quickly learns to use padding to cushion the potential blows.

Tariq suddenly appears at Laila’s home; the story of his death was false. Son Zalmai, although still an innocent, throws a tantrum, luring his mother away from Tariq. Furious, Rasheed beats her with his belt, but she retaliates. He begins to choke her. Mariam, realizing he will murder both of them if he can, hits him with a shovel. Laila revives from the beating, horrified, but Mariam is very calm. Together they dispose of Rasheed’s body, and Laila tells Zalmai his father has gone away. While Laila, Aziza, and Zalmai disappear, Mariam refuses to escape; she will accept the blame. She is sent to a women’s prison and publicly executed for murdering her husband.

Arriving with the children in Pakistan, Laila and Tariq marry. Once the Taliban are driven from Afghanistan, the family returns to contribute to the rebuilding. Kabul has changed—a seeming normalcy—although the local warlords responsible for so many deaths have also returned. Laila teaches at the orphanage where Aziza once lived, and she is once again pregnant.

A Thousand Splendid Suns Overview

A Thousand Splendid Suns recounts the experiences and emotions of two Afghani women, Mariam and Laila, whose lives become entangled with the history of recent wars in their country. Mostly bleak and heartrending, their story does offer the promise of hope and happiness in a land ravaged by warfare, gender conflicts, and poverty.

The novel begins in 1974, when Mariam is fifteen. She lives with her single mother in an isolated spot outside of Herat, an Afghan community of artists. Mariam’s father, Jalil, runs the local movie theater. He does not live with her. Mariam’s mother, whom Mariam calls Nana, was a servant in Jalil’s home when she became pregnant. Jalil had three other wives and never offered to marry Mariam’s mother. Instead, he built a modest house for her on a hill out of town. Jalil comes to visit Mariam once a week and charms her into believing the he will one day fully claim her. Nana, a bitter and sickly woman, tries to destroy Mariam’s fantasies of her father. Mariam’s mother is fully aware that Jalil will eventually betray Mariam, which he does. Although Jalil finally takes Mariam into his home, he gives in to his wives’ demands to send Mariam away by offering her as a bride to an older man.

Her future husband is Rasheed, a successful shoemaker in Kabul. He is a big man, and his size alone frightens Mariam when she first sees him. Before she leaves her father’s side, Mariam swears she will never again speak to him for not allowing her to stay in his house.

Rasheed believes that a man should rule over his wife. He does not allow Mariam to go outside without him, and she must also dress in a burka whenever they leave the home. Mariam, however, remains in Rasheed’s relative good favor until she has a miscarriage and fails several more times to bear a child. With each of his wife’s miscarriages, Rasheed becomes crueler and more distant. Soon she is routinely beaten for trivial and often made-up reasons.

The story then switches to Laila, who has an adoring father who is a teacher and makes sure that Laila is well educated—one of the new breed of modern Afghan women. Laila’s mother, however, dotes on her sons and mostly ignores Laila. Her mother falls into a deep depression when her sons go off to war and then are killed. The Russian and Taliban armies intensify their clashes, and one day a missile destroys Laila’s house. Her parents are killed, and Laila is injured.

Rasheed, who lives down the street, pulls Laila out of the ruins and insists that Mariam nurse her back to health. In Laila’s background is a story about a male childhood friend, Tariq, with whom Laila had recently had sex. Laila soon discovers that she is pregnant. Tariq has left with his family for Pakistan to escape the war in Afghanistan. Laila did not know about the pregnancy until after Tariq was gone.

As Laila is recuperating, a stranger comes to visit and claims he met Tariq in a hospital. Tariq was badly wounded, he says, and died of his injuries. (Later, Laila learns that Rasheed paid the man to tell her this story. Everyone, including Rasheed, knew that Tariq and Laila were in love.) After the man’s visit, Rasheed offers to marry Laila. Knowing she cannot make a living for herself and her baby, she agrees. Mariam does not welcome this arrangement.

As time passes, Rasheed guesses that Laila’s daughter, Aziza, is not his. A couple of years later, Laila produces Rasheed’s baby—a son named Zalmai. Rasheed, after the birth of his son, begins to treat Laila much like he has treated Mariam. Laila is now beaten when she talks back to him.

One day, Tariq returns. He expresses his love, and Laila takes him to see his daughter, whom Laila has been forced to place in an orphanage so the little girl would be guaranteed food. Rasheed has lost his business, and money is scarce. When Rasheed finds out that Tariq is back and has been to the house, he beats Laila. His rage intensifies when Laila talks back, and he tries to strangle her. Mariam, fearing for her friend’s life, hits Rasheed in the head with a shovel, killing him. In order to save Laila and the children, who might be implicated in the murder, Mariam turns herself over to the Taliban. She is sentenced to death.

Laila and Tariq run away with both children and live in Pakistan. But after the United States invades Afghanistan, the family returns to Kabul. Their love for each other, as well as their love for their homeland, despite its cruelties and harshness and hardships, ends the novel on a high note, suggesting the possibility of a better future.

A Thousand Splendid Suns Extended Summary

In A Thousand Splendid Suns, author Khaled Hosseini explores the lives of two women in late-twentieth-century and early-twenty-first-century Afghanistan. The novel opens with the story of Mariam, who at five years old first heard the word harami—bastard. Her father, Jalil, had always called her his little flower, but on this occasion, he mouthed the truth of her birth. Nana, Mariam’s mother, had been one of Jalil’s housekeepers until she became pregnant with his child and was cast out of the house. Jalil had three wives and nine legitimate children, all heirs to his fortune in Herat and its neighboring lands. Jalil did not have enough strength to do the honorable thing and stand up to his wives, so Mariam...

(The entire section is 2418 words.)

A Thousand Splendid Suns Chapter Summaries

Chapters 1-3 Summary

Mariam remembers that she was five years old the first time she heard the word harami, which means “bastard.” Anxiously expecting the weekly visit of her father, Jalil, Mariam breaks one of the pieces of her mother’s porcelain tea set, the only remaining relic of Nana’s own mother. Mariam’s clumsiness prompts Nana to scorn her daughter, but the meaning of Nana’s words would only become apparent to Mariam years later. Even though Jalil is Mariam’s father by birth, Jalil never invites her to his home in Herat. Instead, he visits the kolba, the hut in which Mariam and her mother live, every Thursday and appeases Mariam with stories. But Nana tells Mariam not to believe Jalil’s words because they are simply...

(The entire section is 453 words.)

Chapters 4-5 Summary

Unlike her mother, Mariam loves having visitors at the kolba, especially her father, Jalil. He visits every Thursday, and Mariam’s anxiety begins every Tuesday night as she waits expectantly for Jalil’s visit. When Nana announces that Jalil is crossing the stream to the kolba, Mariam contains herself and waits patiently by the door, knowing that Nana is watching her. Then she runs into her father’s arms and looks down on his smiling face while he tosses her into the air. Nana says that one day, Jalil will miss, but Mariam feels safe in her father’s arms. Nana serves the two tea, and she inquires about Jalil’s family, having heard from Bibi jo that one of Jalil’s wives is expecting another child. Jalil says that yes, he...

(The entire section is 526 words.)

Chapters 6-7 Summary

Mullah Faizullah recites prayers at Nana’s gravesite, and she is buried in the cemetery in Gul Daman. Jalil walks Mariam back to the kolba, and while the villagers watch, he makes a spectacle of gathering Mariam’s belongings and tending to her needs. Mariam asks for Mullah Faizullah, and when he enters the kolba, she cries. He tries to comfort her by telling her that God has a reason for every hard trial in life, but all Mariam can hear are her mother’s words, “I’ll die if you go.”

In the backseat of the car on the way to Herat, Jalil tells Mariam that he has arranged for her to stay in his home. Now, Mariam hears Jalil with her mother’s ears, and she can sense the insincerity of his words. Once at the...

(The entire section is 473 words.)

Chapters 8-9 Summary

On the morning of her wedding, Mariam is given a green dress and white trousers with a pair of sandals. She is taken into the room with the long, dark brown table and already seated are a couple of men and a mullah whom she does not know. Jalil pulls out a chair for Mariam, and he and his wives sit at the table. Nargis, one of Jalil’s wives, arranges a veil on Mariam’s head. When Rasheed enters the room, Mariam is looking at her hands, but she smells his overpowering scent of cigarette smoke combined with sweet cologne. She sneaks a glance and is much displeased by the immense size of the man: he is tall, and his belly is large. When the mullah asks Mariam if she accepts Rasheed as her husband, Mariam remains silent, and one of...

(The entire section is 407 words.)

Chapters 10-11 Summary

Mariam hardly leaves her bedroom the first few days after moving into Rasheed’s home. She arises for early morning prayers and gets back into bed while Rasheed washes and prepares for work. On some days, after Rasheed leaves for work, Mariam goes downstairs to the kitchen and looks at the grease-stained counters and stove. She feels “like an intruder on someone else’s life.” Mariam paces the house and feels the nausea associated with homesickness. Her anxiety increases near the evening of each day when she knows that Rasheed will be making his way home. He enters her room, and Mariam pretends to be sleeping. When Rasheed persists, Mariam acknowledges him, and he sits to tell her about his day at the shoe workshop. One week...

(The entire section is 478 words.)

Chapters 12-13 Summary

That year, 1974, Ramadan comes in the fall. The entire city falls into a lull, and the streets become free of traffic and chatter. Most people fast during the day and eat modest meals at sunset. Mariam enjoys the communal experience of the fast, but Rasheed on most days does not observe. On the days that he does observe the fast, hunger makes him moody and irritable, and he unleashes his temper on Mariam. She is happy when Ramadan ends.

Mariam thinks of her childhood and remembers the first day of Eid-ul-Fitr, the celebration that follows Ramadan. Her father, Jalil, would come to the kolba bearing gifts before excusing himself and heading back over the stream. Nana would say that he was off to visit his real family. On...

(The entire section is 616 words.)

Chapters 14-15 Summary

Mariam is surprised by the grief that overtakes her for a baby that she has never seen. She dreads going outside to see other women surrounded by many children whom they take for granted. Although she tries to comfort herself by thinking that someday she will have other children, Mariam cannot help but grieve for this child. Mariam begins to believe that she is being punished for disobeying Nana so many years ago. Rasheed’s mood and behavior also change after the loss of the child: in the evenings, Rasheed eats silently. Mariam asks him if he is angry with her, and Rasheed yells at Mariam to stop pestering him. Mariam thinks that they should have a proper burial for the child, but Rasheed thinks this is foolish and turns up the...

(The entire section is 440 words.)

Chapters 16-17 Summary

In Kabul during the spring of 1987, nine-year-old Laila wakes and regrets that she will not see her friend Tariq this morning. Tariq will be gone for two weeks; his parents have taken him south to the city of Ghazni to visit a sick uncle. So Laila begins the morning routine—her mother Fariba storms loudly about the house, while her father Babi waits for the mood to pass. When Mammy finally settles back into bed, Babi calls out to Laila so that the two can ride to school together. Laila loves her father’s quiet ways, and at night, she always finds him reading a book. Babi cannot take care of simple household tasks, but he is well versed in literature and history and can speak at length on the plight of Afghanistan. As Laila...

(The entire section is 424 words.)

Chapters 18-20 Summary

Weeks pass, yet Tariq does not return from Ghazni. Laila fears the worst and considers that Tariq has once again fallen victim to a landmine like he did when he was five. That time he lost a leg, and Laila now believes that he may have lost his life. But a few nights later she sees a flashing yellow light from down the street, signaling that her friend has returned. The next day, Laila visits Tariq and is shocked at his newly shaven head. When Laila enters the family room, Tariq’s father calls her “our aroos (daughter-in-law),” and Tariq’s mother scolds her husband. Laila is invited to stay for a meal, and the family speak of their trip to visit Tariq’s sick uncle. Laila loves eating meals at Tariq’s house...

(The entire section is 476 words.)

Chapters 21-22 Summary

On his limited salary, Babi hires a driver and takes Laila and Tariq on a trip. They pass through varied landscapes of snowy peaks to dry deserts, and Laila imagines that this is the landscape of Afghanistan that was well known to her brothers.

After passing a few checkpoints, Babi points out Shahr-e-Zohak, The Red City, to Laila and Tariq and tells them about the history of Genghis Khan. Babi says that the history of Afghanistan is filled with stories of invasions. Shortly, the driver pulls over, and all get out of the taxi to explore the area. Two enormous Buddhas are chiseled into a rock cliff. Babi invites Laila and Tariq to climb up to the statues. Babi tells them that the area was once home to a Buddhist center...

(The entire section is 525 words.)

Chapter 23 Summary

Three years pass. Tariq’s father has suffered a series of strokes which have left his left hand clumsy and his speech slurred. Tariq has outgrown his prosthetic leg and had to wait six months for the Red Cross to issue him a new one. Laila’s friend Hasina has been forced by her family to move to Lahore to marry a cousin who owns an auto shop. The Soviet Union is quickly falling, and Babi often returns home telling of yet another newly independent republic. In Kabul, government leaders attempt to persuade the Mujahideen into believing that they are devout Muslims; however, none are swayed. Mammy continues to wait for the government to fall. Mammy gets her wish in April 1992, when Najibullah surrenders, ending the jihad.

...

(The entire section is 519 words.)

Chapters 24-26 Summary

Laila cannot stand the sound of the whistling of the bombs; she hates the uncertain time between the start of the whistling and the destruction upon impact. She fears that Tariq will be hit by a stray rocket. All night, Laila sees flashes of light outside her window, and she cannot sleep. In the morning, the Mujahideen call a cease-fire to enter prayer, but once namaz is over, the fighting resumes. Massoud’s men are everywhere: in the streets, atop tanks, at intersections. Laila rarely goes out, and when she does, she is escorted by Tariq. One day, Tariq admits to Laila that he has bought a gun for protection—he has heard stories about women who were raped and mutilated in the street. Tariq has become Laila’s...

(The entire section is 531 words.)

Chapters 27-29 Summary

Rasheed and Mariam have taken Laila into their home, and as Laila slowly regains consciousness, she quietly tells Mariam that she cannot hear out of her left ear. For the first week, Laila sleeps much. Sometimes she cries out names in her sleep and weeps in agitation, kicking the blankets off the bed. Other times she vomits continually. When not upset, Laila simply stares and refuses to eat or move. Mariam asks Rasheed how long the girl will stay, and Rasheed tells her that Laila is in no condition to go anywhere else.

Rasheed tells Laila that it was he who found her in the rubble of what used to be her home. He also managed to save a few of Laila’s father’s books, but most of them were turned to ash in the...

(The entire section is 528 words.)

Chapters 30-32 Summary

The next day, Laila remains in bed. When Rasheed returns in the evening, he makes a spectacle of showing Laila the wedding band that he has bought her (he traded in Mariam’s wedding ring to make the purchase). But Laila does not want to accept such a gift and asks him to take it back. Rasheed tells her that he spent much money on the ring and then rambles on about flowers and a dress fitting. Laila interrupts him and tells him, “I’d just as soon we get it done,” and Rasheed interprets her submission as eagerness.

Laila had been planning to run away to Pakistan, but the new changes in her body make her realize that she cannot leave. Her missed menstrual cycle, full breasts, and daily nausea are all signs that...

(The entire section is 544 words.)

Chapters 33-35 Summary

In the spring of 1993, Mariam watches from the window as Rasheed escorts Laila from the house on their way to the hospital. When the couple returns the next evening, Rasheed enters the yard first and lets the gate nearly slam in Laila’s face. Laila struggles to get through the door while carrying both her newborn daughter and a bag of belongings, but Mariam turns away to return to the kitchen to warm Rasheed’s food. The first few months, Rasheed cannot stand the baby’s crying and threatens to send little Aziza down the Kabul River. Rasheed and Laila argue much about caring for the baby and Laila’s refusal to have sex with Rasheed. But Laila revels in her role as a new mother, and Mariam is exhausted by Laila’s new...

(The entire section is 584 words.)

Chapter 36 Summary

On the morning that Laila and Mariam plan to leave, Laila listens as Rasheed prepares for work and watches him as he pedals away on his bicycle. She fears that he knows that she has been lying about his being Aziza’s father and that he knows of her and Mariam’s plan to escape. The taxi arrives, and as they drive, Laila fears that Rasheed will be somewhere on the street to spot them. Mariam mutters prayers. On the street are the signs of the fighting that has taken over the city: ruins of homes, destroyed buildings, shattered glass, and overturned cars are everywhere. As they pass a funeral procession and a cemetery, Laila clutches Aziza’s arm. The taxi driver drops the women off at the bus station, and Laila and Mariam look...

(The entire section is 593 words.)

Chapters 37-39 Summary

Two and a half years pass, and Mariam awakes to shouting, whistling, music, and firecrackers outside the window. The Taliban have arrived in Kabul. Many of the men in the Taliban have grown up as refugees in Pakistan—the men have no roots and no past, and they look to conquer all in their path. Rasheed respects the fact that the men are at least united unlike the previous factions in the government. That afternoon, Rasheed takes the family to the town square, and there young Talib men over loudspeakers rail against the government. The next day, Kabul is flooded with trucks, and messages and announcements blare over loudspeakers declaring the creation of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Countless rules limiting people’s...

(The entire section is 417 words.)

Chapters 40-41 Summary

Kabul is in the second year of a severe drought that has driven farmers off their land and into other countries. Lines at the public wells are long, and Mariam and Laila wait for hours just to get a little water for the family. Mariam and Laila dig a large hole in the yard to hide household items from the Taliban. While they work, Zalmai chases his sister, Aziza, around the yard. Zalmai resembles his father in looks, yet when he is alone with Laila, he is a sweet, good-natured boy. However, Zalmai worships his father, so when Rasheed is around, Zalmai resorts to mischievous behavior that Rasheed praises as “a sign of intelligence.” Laila gets to spend little time with her son because Rasheed often takes the boy to his shoe...

(The entire section is 547 words.)

Chapter 42 Summary

In April 2001, the Taliban plants TNT in the two giant Buddhas in Bamiyan and chant as the artifacts are blown to pieces. The Taliban claim that they are ridding the country of idolatry and sin. As the statues crumble, Laila sees her own life crumbling as well. Rasheed tells his family that they must pack to go away, and Aziza puts into a paper bag all the small things that are precious to her. The five leave to Karteh-Seh, and when they arrive at the barracks, Aziza asks her parents how long she will have to stay in the orphanage. Rasheed gives her a stick of gum to quiet her. When Aziza is taken away, Zalmai cries for his sister. Mariam and Laila walk the rest of the way with Aziza, and they promise to visit her. They soon meet...

(The entire section is 538 words.)

Chapters 43-44 Summary

Mariam takes Zalmai upstairs to her bedroom, and the boy bounces his new basketball around the room. Mariam asks him to stop, but Zalmai never respects Mariam as an authority figure, so he continues misbehaving. Zalmai is skeptical of Tariq; when they met him at their front door, Zalmai resorted to childish behavior and shoved his thumb in his mouth. Zalmai asks Mariam who the man is and tells her that he does not like him. Meanwhile, his basketball has rolled into the closet, so he screams for his toy until Laila comes upstairs to soothe him. Mariam waits outside the room and sees Tariq near the bottom of the stairs. She realizes that the story of his death was a rouse and wonders how much Rasheed paid Abdul Sharif to come to...

(The entire section is 480 words.)

Chapters 45-47 Summary

Rasheed orders Zalmai to go upstairs, and the boy has a stricken look on his face. The sound of a brass buckle at the end of a belt follows Rasheed down the steps. Mariam tries to block his path. He shoves her out of the way and attacks Laila with such speed that she has no time to even try to get out of the way. Mariam screams for Rasheed to stop, and Laila runs around the room in an attempt to dodge the blows. Rasheed catches her and slams her against the wall, striking her over and over with the belt. Mariam claws at Rasheed, and he releases Laila and turns on her. Mariam looks into his eyes and thinks about the fact that she gave her entire youth to this man. He drops the belt and says that some things must be done with bare...

(The entire section is 586 words.)

Chapters 48-49 Summary

Now, Tariq often has headaches. They started in Nasir Bagh and grew worse while he was in prison. Some nights, Laila lays a cold compress on his head or Tariq takes the pills prescribed by the doctor. These help, but many nights all Tariq can do is hold his head and moan. Laila and Tariq married the day they arrived in town, Murree, and the hotel owner Sayeed was happy that he would not have an unmarried couple living under his roof. Sayeed arranged to have a mullah come for the ceremony, and Tariq bought two simple wedding bands from the mall. That night as they lay in bed together with their children sleeping nearby, Laila reminisced about their lost youth and thought it a great blessing to have Tariq with her now.

...

(The entire section is 438 words.)

Chapters 50-51 Summary

One night in July 2002, Laila and Tariq lie in bed and whisper about all the changes that have taken place back in Afghanistan. Coalition forces have driven the Taliban out of the major cities, and the country has an interim president. And although Laila likes their new life in Murree, the sense of restlessness from living away from their home has gotten to her, and she wants to go home. But first, Laila wants to visit Herat.

The children need some reassuring, but Tariq and Laila are able to get them to pack up and board the bus. On the way out of town, Laila recalls her father’s farewell ode to Kabul and feels confident that she has made the right decision to return to the city. War has ravaged the roads, and they...

(The entire section is 517 words.)