illustration of two women standing in burkas with two overlapping circles between them and the title A Thousand Splendid Suns written above them

A Thousand Splendid Suns

by Khaled Hosseini

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Chapter 36 Summary

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Chapter 36

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 around for a man whom they think might agree to pose as one of their family members. Women in Kabul are no longer allowed the freedoms of the past, and travelling without a male family member as a chaperone is strictly forbidden. Laila and Mariam know that they will also face great risk if they make the journey to Pakistan because the country is already overburdened with refugees and only those with official visas are admitted through the border. The pair hope that they will be able to bribe their way into Pakistan.

After some deliberation, Laila and Mariam agree on a man whom they see sitting on a bench with a veiled woman and a young boy outside the park. Laila is encouraged by the man’s soft face and demeanor, and she asks the man, Wakil, if he will do them a favor and act as a family member. The man agrees, and he takes Laila’s money to buy the bus tickets. When the time comes to board the bus, Wakil’s wife and son go on first, and Wakil whispers something to the guard. The guard pulls Laila and Mariam to the side, and they are forced to board a truck heading to the police station.

At the police station, Laila and Mariam are interrogated separately. Laila claims that Mariam is her mother and that they had been headed to visit an uncle in Peshawar. After more questions, the officer tells Laila that it is a crime for women to run away from their husbands and that she and Mariam could be put in prison for their actions. Laila begs the officer to let them go, telling the officer that there is no saying what Rasheed might do to them if they are taken back home. The officer replies that a man may do as he likes in his own home.

When the police drop Laila and Mariam back home, Rasheed grabs Laila by the arm and pushes her up the stairs. She tries to protect Mariam by taking the blame, but Rasheed punches her in the stomach, causing Laila to fall to the floor. He drags her into the bedroom by her hair and locks her and Aziza in the room. Downstairs, Rasheed savagely beats Mariam. He drags Mariam outside and locks her in the toolshed before boarding up the windows to Laila’s bedroom. Days of dark and heat drive Laila and Aziza to near madness, and Laila fears that her daughter will not survive their imprisonment. Finally, Rasheed opens the door and threatens worse treatment if Laila and Mariam try to escape again. He kicks her in the flank, and Laila passes blood in her urine from the kick for days.

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