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 later, Rasheed tells Mariam that she must unpack her suitcase and start behaving like a wife.

The next morning, Mariam unpacks and begins cleaning the house and cooking meals. She leaves the house to go to the communal tandoor to bake bread, and along the way, she listens to the chatter of the neighborhood women as they talk of family life and responsibility. In the tandoor line, Mariam notices the other women staring at her, and she becomes nervous. Then one of the women, Fariba, approaches and asks if she is Rasheed’s new wife. After a brief introduction, the other women then overwhelm Mariam with questions, and Fariba must pull the women away. Mariam runs off, tripping in the street, unable to find her own house.

When Rasheed returns home after work, he does not notice the cleanliness of the house, but he compliments Mariam’s cooking. Rasheed offers to show Mariam around Kabul the next day, and he also tells her that he believes it honorable for a woman’s looks to be her husband’s business only. Before they leave, Rasheed makes Mariam put on a burqa. She is unnerved by the loss of vision and suffocating cloth. The couple takes a bus to Shar-e-Nau Park and strolls the grounds, watching children play. They eat lunch at a restaurant, and Rasheed buys ice cream for Mariam—this is the first time she has ever had such a treat. Mariam is most intrigued by the women she sees in Kabul; they are dressed in modern, flashy clothing so unlike the dress of the women in her neighborhood. In comparison, Mariam feels plain and homely.

That night, Rasheed comes to Mariam’s room and slides under the bedsheets. Mariam tells him, “I can’t,” but Rasheed’s hands explore her body. Rasheed rolls on top of Mariam, and she bites the knuckle of her thumb to ease her pain. When he is finished, Rasheed tells Mariam there is no shame in this because it is what married people do. Then he leaves Mariam alone and returns to his own bedroom.