Chapter 23 Summary

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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.

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On the day following Najibullah’s surrender, Mammy gets out of bed and appears to be a new woman. For the first time in five years, she does not wear black and instead dons a blue dress. She cleans the house, takes a bath, and declares that a party is in order. Mammy goes into the kitchen and begins preparing food to entertain her guests. Mammy asks after Tariq and his family, playfully hinting that Laila and Tariq might have romantic feelings for each other. She tells Laila that she must look after her reputation, but Laila claims that she and Tariq are simply friends and that he is like a brother to her. Mammy takes offense to this comparison and tells Laila that no one could ever be like her brothers. Laila knows that Mammy has a point; she is forced to admit that she has fallen for Tariq. Laila suspects that more than a few of their neighbors gossip about her and Tariq—she has noticed the sly grins on their faces when she walks by them. Yet Laila is angry that Mammy, who has been so removed from their lives for the past five years, is making a comment about her life.

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