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 workshop during the day. At home, if Laila asks to hold her son, Rasheed glowers at her.
A few weeks after Zalmai’s second birthday, Rasheed returns home with a full-size television and a VCR. These types of items have been banned by the Taliban; Rasheed purchased them on the black market. Once the television is set up, Aziza pushes the power button, and Rasheed grabs her hand away. Rasheed says the television belongs to Zalmai. Later, after dinner, Rasheed tells Laila that he has borrowed more money than he has let on and that the money from his shoe shop is not enough to continue to sustain the family. He tells her that Aziza will have to beg for money in the streets. Laila protests, and Rasheed slaps her. Laila retorts by punching him in the face, and someone screams in the back of the room. Rasheed walks out of the room; when he returns, he chokes Laila and shoves a gun into her mouth.
After Rasheed’s abuse, the women bury the television in the large hole they have dug in the yard. Afterward, Laila dreams that she and Mariam lower Aziza, not the television, into the hole. Laila tells her daughter that it will only be for a little while, but Aziza fights against the sheet of plastic in which her mother has wrapped her. She fills the hole. Laila wakes from...
(The entire section is 547 words.)