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 freedom are doled out to the public. Women must be escorted in the streets, and all must obey times of prayer. Laila refuses to believe that the Taliban will be able to enforce such laws, and Rasheed laughs, claiming that her father's ideas about education have made her naive. The university and cinemas are shut down, pre-Islamic institutions are destroyed and looted, and people are forced into mosques during namaz. All Rasheed has to do is grow a mustache and beard, so he accepts the new impositions of the Taliban and speaks ill of the former Soviet rule. When Laila questions him, he threatens to give Aziza away, claiming that he has suspicions about the parentage of the child. Laila is disgusted by Rasheed’s threats and worries about the safety of herself and her daughter. She even considers committing suicide, but she reasons that too many innocent people have already died in the crossfire of enemies.

The next year, Laila is ready to deliver her second child, but the nearby hospital no longer treats women according to mandates by the Taliban. The women’s hospital, Rabia Balkhi, lacks clean water, electricity, and medication. Still, Laila must be taken there, and in the waiting room, dozens of women wait for medical care. Mariam tries to get a nurse to admit Laila, but other women are also trying to get their cases heard. Finally, Laila is taken in to see a doctor, and upon examination, the doctor declares that Laila needs a caesarian section to birth the baby because it is in a breech position. The doctor covers Laila's lower body with a cloth. She slits Laila’s abdomen, but the hospital has no anesthetic. Mariam praises Laila for her ability to endure such pain.