A Thousand Splendid Suns

A Thousand Splendid Suns

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Laila Character Analysis

Unlike Mariam, Laila is a beautiful young girl from an educated family in Kabul whose father is committed to giving her an education and preparing her for life as an independent woman. However, Laila suffers in her own way from the coldness of her mother, who seems to have abandoned her in favor of her two sons, who have gone off to battle and are eventually killed. Laila is curious and intelligent: she retains a strong sense of Afghanistan’s culture and is hopeful for its future. She is also bold and prone to risk-taking, as evidenced by her love affair with Tariq as a teenager, by her plot to escape Rasheed, and by her constant commitment to make it to the orphanage to visit her daughter Aziza despite the possibility of beatings by the Taliban. Ultimately, however, Laila is not as tough or world-weary as Mariam—though she remains forever cognizant of the tremendous sacrifice Mariam has made for her. It is this sense of debt, to Mariam, to her family, and to Afghanistan, that will determine her return to Afghanistan from exile in Pakistsan.

Laila Quotes in A Thousand Splendid Suns

The A Thousand Splendid Suns quotes below are all either spoken by Laila or refer to Laila. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
History and Memory in Afghanistan Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Riverhead Books edition of A Thousand Splendid Suns published in 2007.
Part II: Chapter 16 Quotes

“I know you’re still young, but I want you to understand and learn this now,” he said. “Marriage can wait, education cannot. You’re a very, very bright girl. Truly, you are. You can be anything you want, Laila. I know this about you. And I also know that when this war is over, Afghanistan is going to need you as much as its men, maybe even more. Because a society has no chance of success if its women are uneducated, Laila. No chance.”

Related Characters: Hakim (Babi) (speaker), Laila
Page Number: 114
Explanation and Analysis:

Laila's friends have been joking around about how to ward off unwanted suitors, but Laila recognizes that she does not need to worry about such problems, since Babi wants her to get an education. Here she recalls what he has repeated to her multiple times.

Babi's advice could not be further from Rasheed's understanding of the proper place of a woman in Afghani life. Rather than considering the home as the women's sphere, Babi thinks that the education of women is not just positive but necessary for Afghanistan to recover from its many wars and succeed in the future. He sees Laila as an example of how the next generation can repair the mistakes and failures of earlier generations, and he understands that that can only take place if all citizens are educated. Babi thus makes the education of women not a private question, a question of giving women opportunities now often barred from them, but a question that is directly linked to the national future of the country.

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Part II: Chapter 19 Quotes

It was hard to feel, really feel, Mammy’s loss. Hard to summon sorrow, to grieve the deaths of people Laila had never really thought of as alive in the first place. Ahmad and Noor had always been like lore to her. Like characters in a fable. Kings in a history book.

It was Tariq who was real, flesh and blood.

Related Characters: Laila, Tariq, Fariba (Mammy), Ahmad, Noor
Page Number: 140
Explanation and Analysis:

Ahmad and Noor, Laila's two brothers, have been killed in the course of fighting, and Mammy, who has always adored them, is beyond comforting. During the funeral, Laila attempts to understand her mother's feelings, and to feel her sorrow herself, but is unable to. Ahmad and Noor, off fighting since Laila was very young, have long remained abstract figures to her rather than real, present, loving brothers. She understands the importance of their positions and their courage in fighting for their country, but these ideals have never gained a sense of reality for Laila. She can only contrast the way she feels about her brothers to the way she feels about Tariq, whom she has grown up with, and to whom she feels more loyal and loving than she feels even towards her own brothers. While Laila would never be able to vocalize such sentiments, she does allow herself these silent feelings as she attempts to come to terms with her family's loss.

Part II: Chapter 23 Quotes

“By the time we’re twenty,” Hasina used to say, “Giti and I, we’ll have pushed out four, five kids each. But you, Laila, you’ll make us two dummies proud. You’re going to be somebody. I know one day I’ll pick up a newspaper and find your picture on the front page.”

Related Characters: Hasina (speaker), Laila, Giti
Page Number: 166
Explanation and Analysis:

Giti has shared with Hasina and Laila that there is a boy she likes in the neighborhood, and she's thinking about marrying him. Although Laila asks her about school, Giti just looks at her. Laila realizes that she should have understood, and she recalls what Hasina had repeated to her several times throughout their friendship: that Laila is on a different path than other girls in her community. Hasina underlines that Laila's family situation is rare if not unique: there are not many fathers like Babi, who consider it vital for young women to have an education and to have all the same opportunities as young men.

Hasina doesn't seem bitter about the different expectations for her and for Laila. Nor does she seem to question her own path in life, accepting that she will marry young and have children as is expected of her. Instead, she sounds proud and admiring of her friend: for Hasina, Laila is the exception rather than the rule, and her future should be treated as such. Hasina's words thus underline the difficulty of changing expectations and norms around gender relations in Afghanistan: even if one woman manages to attain greater equality with men, this is more likely to be seen as a rare case than as a new standard. Still, Hasina is also an example of the compassion and mutual respect that the book wants to portray as empowering, even if also common, among women. 

Part II: Chapter 26 Quotes

There would come a day, in fact, years later, when Laila would no longer bewail his loss. Or not as relentlessly; not nearly. There would come a day when the details of his face would begin to slip from memory’s grip, when overhearing a mother on the street call after her child by Tariq’s name would no longer cut her adrift. She would not miss him as she did now, when the ache of his absence was her unremitting companion—like the phantom pain of an amputee.

Related Characters: Laila, Tariq
Page Number: 187
Explanation and Analysis:

This is one of the few moments in the book during which the narrator looks into the future and compares one of the character's later states of mind with how she is feeling at the current moment. Here, the contrast between Laila's current and later states is meant to show just how acute her pain at Tariq's absence is now—but also how such acute suffering inevitably softens and eases with the passage of time. This is not to say that Laila will have lost her feelings for Tariq. Instead, the book tries to show how it is possible for even those who have suffered the most, in ways unimaginable to many readers, to carry on in their own lives. The book is also interested in the persistence of love, and how it can change and mutate even while persevering below the surface. The way this takes place is described through a simile that is highly significant, given that Tariq of course has an amputated leg himself. The simile of amputation is meant to show how an absence can be its own kind of presence. 

Part III: Chapter 27 Quotes

The girl was looking back as if waiting for Mariam to pass on some morsel of wisdom, to say something encouraging. But what wisdom did Mariam have to offer? What encouragement? Mariam remembered the day they’d buried Nana and how little comfort she had found when Mullah Faizullah had quoted the Koran for her.

Related Characters: Mariam, Laila, Nana, Mullah Faizullah
Page Number: 202
Explanation and Analysis:

During her recovery, Laila has had time to ruminate on her own place in the tragedy that has befallen her family, and to ask herself what, if any, responsibility she might have in it. She settles on the fact that if she hadn’t insisted on completing an errand that her father wanted to do, she would have died rather than Babi. For her part, Mariam is quite familiar with such feelings of guilt and responsibility: she too has experienced the painful process of grief mixed up with shame after the death of a family member.

But Mariam’s own experiences do not seem to have made her any wiser, at least from her own perspective. Mariam recognizes that there is little she can say that will make Laila feel better—something she understands having realized how little others, even those she respected and admired like Mullah Faizullah, could comfort her in her own grief. That Mariam does not try to soothe Laila thus stems not from coldness or hardness but from a shared experience and understanding.

She was remembering the day the man from Panjshir had come to deliver the news of Ahmad’s and Noor’s deaths. She remembered Babi, white-faced, slumping on the couch, and Mammy, her hand flying to her mouth when she heard. Laila had watched Mammy come undone that day and it had scared her, but she hadn’t felt any true sorrow. She hadn’t understood the awfulness of her mother’s loss. Now another stranger bringing news of another death. Now she was the one sitting on the chair. Was this her penalty, then, her punishment for being aloof to her own mother’s suffering?

Related Characters: Laila, Tariq, Fariba (Mammy), Hakim (Babi), Ahmad, Noor
Page Number: 210
Explanation and Analysis:

As Laila struggles to react to the news of Tariq’s death, her mind returns to an earlier moment of another person’s suffering, in another reaction to horrific news. As readers, we too can recall that moment and remember how Laila struggled to feel a real sense of loss at the death of her brothers, even as her own mother broke down in grief at the news. Now Laila can finally recognize what Mammy was feeling at that long-ago moment, but she also feels that she is being made to pay, in some cosmic way, for her lack of grief when Ahmad and Noor died. At that moment in time, she had contrasted the abstract figures of her brothers to the real, visceral presence of Tariq. Here, that comparison is tragically fulfilled, as Laila learns that the person who has always seemed most real and true to her has died. In a tragically ironic twist, Laila can only fully understand her own mother’s suffering when she is made to experience something just as painful herself.

Part III: Chapter 30 Quotes

But, miraculously, something of her former life remained, her last link to the person that she had been before she had become so utterly alone. A part of Tariq still alive inside her, sprouting tiny arms, growing translucent hands. How could she jeopardize the only thing she had left of him, of her old life?

Related Characters: Laila, Tariq
Page Number: 219
Explanation and Analysis:

Laila had been plotting to escape Rasheed and flee to Pakistan, but now a regular morning nausea has made her realize that she is pregnant with Tariq’s child, and her plans are forced to change. In some ways, this realization makes things more difficult and complicated: no longer can Laila realistically escape, and she will have to find a way to ensure that Rasheed believes that this child is his own. But rather than feeling afraid or trapped, Laila’s pregnancy is a source of gratefulness and relief.

After the death of her parents, Laila had been left with no living blood relations: only the knowledge that Tariq was alive and safe gave her a sense of continuity with her past. With Tariq gone, Laila feels alone in the world and bereft of anyone who could make her feel the kind of belonging she had with Babi and Tariq. The thought of Tariq’s child now gives her the strength to want to carry on, and the ability to withstand the desperation of her new life by clinging on to something that remains from her former reality.

Part III: Chapter 34 Quotes

Laila examined Mariam’s drooping cheeks, the eyelids that sagged in tired folds, the deep lines that framed her mouth—she saw these things as though she too were looking at someone for the first time. And, for the first time, it was not an adversary’s face Laila saw but a face of grievances unspoken, burdens gone unprotested, a destiny submitted to and endured.

Related Characters: Mariam, Laila
Page Number: 249
Explanation and Analysis:

Laila and Mariam have so far accepted their position as natural enemies, competing wives. But now Mariam admits that she is grateful for Laila’s attempt to stop Rasheed from hitting her, for sticking up for her as no one has done before. Mariam’s expression of gratefulness causes Laila to see her in a different light. Before, Laila had considered Mariam as simply another enemy to face, another unpleasant reality in her new life. But now she begins to recognize that Mariam has struggled in similar ways that she, Laila, has—that perhaps Mariam has even suffered more than herself. The sense of stubborn perseverance and acceptance of past wrongs that she sees in Mariam’s face makes Laila feel sympathetically towards Mariam, and it also makes her wonder if she and Mariam could derive mutual strength from the things that they have both gone through—if the two women could be stronger united in their suffering than divided.

Part III: Chapter 38 Quotes

Laila dropped the spoke because she could not accept what the Mujahideen readily had: that sometimes in war innocent life had to be taken. Her war was against Rasheed. The baby was blameless. And there had been enough killing already. Laila had seen enough killing of innocents caught in the cross fire of enemies.

Related Characters: Laila, Rasheed
Page Number: 284
Explanation and Analysis:

Rasheed has hinted to Laila that he knows that Aziza is not his child, and he threatens her with all he could do, legally, as her husband, to punish her. Laila’s rage has not gone away by the time she realizes that she is once again pregnant, this time with Rasheed’s child. Her anger is such that she comes very close to completing a homegrown abortion, ensuring that she won’t give birth to the child of the man she despises.

Laila’s decision not to go through with the abortion is portrayed not as a sign of acquiescence to Rasheed’s power, but rather as a decision Laila makes herself to cut off the endless cycle of suffering and retribution. From her brothers and her parents to Tariq, Laila has seen first-hand how innocent people have suffered as a result of others’ desires for justice and revenge. Here she recognizes that such a process of violent vengeance can easily go on forever: it is up to her to choose, in this individual case, not to continue the cycle. She makes the decision to treat the baby as an “innocent caught in the cross fire” rather than as a symbol of Rasheed’s own malevolence.

Part III: Chapter 42 Quotes

[Laila] thought of Aziza’s stutter, and of what Aziza had said earlier about fractures and powerful collisions deep down and how sometimes all we see on the surface is a slight tremor.

Related Characters: Laila
Page Number: 326
Explanation and Analysis:

Laila has managed a rare visit to the orphanage to see Aziza, but as the two return together, Aziza grows quiet, worrying Laila. Aziza had told her earlier about what she’s been learning, about tectonic plates that collide deep in the earth, even if only a slight tremor is apparent on the surface. Laila ties this anecdote to the stutter that, she notices, Aziza has begun to develop.

Laila has to recognize that, although Aziza tries to be cheerful and happy whenever Laila manages to visit her, Aziza’s new life in the orphanage cannot be  pleasant. Her descent into silence is emblematic, for Laila, of all that lies below the surface, and all that Aziza refrains from saying for fear of worrying or causing pain to her mother. Laila will inevitably worry about her daughter, but her anxiety is coupled with a knowledge that living in the orphanage is the only possibility to keep Aziza alive—that Laila is trapped by her situation with Rasheed and unable to do anything else to keep her daughter safe.

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Laila Character Timeline in A Thousand Splendid Suns

The timeline below shows where the character Laila appears in A Thousand Splendid Suns. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part I: Chapter 15
History and Memory in Afghanistan Theme Icon
Love, Loyalty, and Belonging Theme Icon
...like gemstones. Her other son, Ahmad, sings to her. Hakim and Fariba name the baby Laila. (full context)
Part II: Chapter 16
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It’s the spring of 1987, and Laila, who is nine years old, is sulking at the departure of her friend Tariq for... (full context)
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Downstairs, Laila’s parents are fighting like usual—Mammy, angry and ranting, and Babi, quiet and sheepish-looking. Afterward, Babi... (full context)
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Babi shows Laila a rip in the screen door, and says that Mammy has complained it’s letting in... (full context)
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Babi teases Laila about missing Tariq, saying that before she knows it, he’ll be sending her a signal... (full context)
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Babi takes Laila to school, and on the way she spots a blue Benz car parked across from... (full context)
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In class, Laila is distracted and doesn’t notice when the teacher asks her a question. The teacher’s name... (full context)
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Khala Rangmaal asks Laila again, calling her Inqilabi or Revolutionary Girl, since Laila was born the night of the... (full context)
Gender Relations Theme Icon
Female Friendship Theme Icon
After school, since Mammy doesn’t show up, Laila walks home with her classmates Giti and Hasina. Hasina is clever and talkative, and today... (full context)
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Laila walks the last few blocks alone, and sees the blue Benz still parked outside Rasheed’s... (full context)
Part II: Chapter 17
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Khadim, a troublemaker in the neighborhood, is pointing a red and green water gun at Laila. He mocks her and asks what she’ll do to stop him—have her crippled friend Tariq... (full context)
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Laila knows the boys wouldn’t have dared to do it if Tariq was there—but also that... (full context)
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...the women’s conversation often turns to matchmaking for Ahmad and Noor, who are away fighting. Laila barely remembers them, since she was two years old when they left. Mammy always refuses... (full context)
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After these reminiscences, Laila slowly enters Mammy’s room, where she is greeted by a smell of unwashed linen, leftover... (full context)
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Laila tells Mammy to wake up, and she slowly emerges from under layers of blankets. She... (full context)
Part II: Chapter 18
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After a few weeks, Tariq still hasn’t returned. Laila initially is able to distract herself, but then grows anxious that he’ll never come back,... (full context)
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The next day Laila hurries to Tariq’s house, where she exclaims at his newly shaved head and his sunburned... (full context)
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Though they are Pashtuns, they speak Farsi rather than Pashto for Laila’s sake. Babi says that there are tensions between Tajiks, like them, and Pashtuns—Afghanistan’s largest ethnic... (full context)
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After lunch, Laila and Tariq go to his room, where he tells Laila about his trip and they... (full context)
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The two decide to go to the zoo. Laila says that she’s missed him, and after a pause Tariq makes a face and asks... (full context)
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...The other boys step aside and allow Tariq a free path to Khadim—who never bothers Laila again. (full context)
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That night, Laila sets the table for her and Babi alone, as usual. Babi asks Laila what she’s... (full context)
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Laila decides to tell Babi about Tariq’s fight with Khadim, but doesn’t have time before a... (full context)
Part II: Chapter 19
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A stocky man asks for Laila’s parents—he has news from Panjshir. Babi asks Laila to go upstairs, and from the top... (full context)
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...home to cook and prepare the house for the ceremony following the funeral. They shoo Laila away, where she feels in the way until Giti and Hasina arrive with their families.... (full context)
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...from the Koran. Mariam, Rasheed’s wife, enters in a black hijab and sits across from Laila. Mammy sways back and forth, her gaze blank. But Laila struggles to really feel the... (full context)
Part II: Chapter 20
Suffering and Perseverance Theme Icon
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...picking at her hair. She does still pray five times a day. It’s up to Laila, though, to complete all the household chores. (full context)
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Sometimes, Laila lies next to Mammy in bed. One day Mammy tells a story about Ahmad’s talent... (full context)
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After hesitating, Laila says she’s been meaning to ask Mammy something. Already, with Hasina, she’s gotten rid of... (full context)
Part II: Chapter 21
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Gender Relations Theme Icon
Tariq, Laila, and Babi are in a taxi leaving Kabul on a day trip—the destination is Babi’s... (full context)
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...and potatoes, crisscrossed by streams and dotted with tiny figures of women washing their clothes. Laila makes out people on the roofs of their mud brick dwellings, the main town road... (full context)
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...up here, back when she was adventurous and alive. He smiles at the memories, and Laila knows she’ll always remember Babi in this way, happy and reminiscing. Tariq heads off to... (full context)
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...would never leave the land of her martyr sons—and Babi would never leave without her. Laila remembers Mammy saying that she had married a man with no convictions, but Laila knows... (full context)
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Later, Tariq naps and Babi reads under the acacias. Laila dips her feet into the water and thinks about Babi’s dreams of America. She has... (full context)
Part II: Chapter 22
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In January 1989, when Laila is ten, she joins her parents and Hasina to watch the departure of one of... (full context)
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That day, Laila and Tariq go to Cinema Park to see a Soviet film dubbed, very badly, into... (full context)
Part II: Chapter 23
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In April 1992, when Laila turns fourteen, Najibullah finally surrenders and the jihad is over—the comrades of Ahmad and Noor... (full context)
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...and invites all the neighbors over for a big lunch. As she prepares, she asks Laila how Tariq is doing—almost a man now, she says. She tells Lails it was charming... (full context)
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In fact, Laila has fallen head over heels in love with Tariq. She pictures them in bed together... (full context)
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Nevertheless, it irritates Laila that Mammy has criticized her, when she’s been aloof and distant for so many years.... (full context)
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The women gather inside to chat, and Laila helps with the cooking with Giti. Giti is not as quiet as before—she’s been trying... (full context)
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...awhile, Tariq wanders in to taste the food before being shooed out by the women. Laila tries not to look at him so as not to add to the gossip, but... (full context)
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After lunch, Tariq motions to Laila discreetly and slips out the door. A few minutes later, she follows, finding him up... (full context)
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Tariq tells Laila that her hair is getting longer, and looks nice. She teases him about the girls... (full context)
Part II: Chapter 24
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Laila confides to Tariq that she hates the whistling—or rather, the brief moments between when it... (full context)
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Laila sees Massoud’s men everywhere, roaming the streets and stopping people for questioning. Tariq buys a... (full context)
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Laila asks Tariq if he has it in him to kill with the gun. He says... (full context)
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Babi even has Laila drop out of school because of the danger, and becomes her tutor himself. With rockets... (full context)
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...in its sock and sneaker, wouldn’t be found until two weeks later. At her funeral, Laila is stunned, unable to wrap her head around the fact that Giti is gone. She... (full context)
Part II: Chapter 25
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It’s August 1992, and Tariq and Laila are sitting in her living room, as he tells her that he and his family... (full context)
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In the days and weeks afterward, Laila will struggle to commit all of what happens next to memory. Though some of it... (full context)
Part II: Chapter 26
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It’s the hottest day of the year, and Laila is lying on the living-room couch, listening to her parents upstairs and torn between shame... (full context)
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Babi calls to Laila from upstairs, saying that Mammy has agreed to leave. The three of them sit on... (full context)
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Three days earlier, Laila had slipped outside for some fresh air when, with a loud crack, some stray shrapnel... (full context)
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That night, Laila has a dream of her and Tariq sitting on a quilt on a beach, watching... (full context)
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...into piles. Babi struggles to choose what to bring from his book collection. He tells Laila that it’s strange to think he’ll be leaving Kabul, where he’s lived, studied, and taught.... (full context)
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On the third day, Laila carries boxes of books from the house to the yard, where they’ll take everything to... (full context)
Part III: Chapter 27
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...returns home from work with a new blanket and pillow or with vitamins. He tells Laila (which is how he refers to her, rather than “the girl”) that her friend Tariq’s... (full context)
Part III: Chapter 28
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...is thin with a big nose and short, brown hair sticking up from his head. Laila asks if he’s a friend of her parents, and he says no. He says he... (full context)
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...died soon after at the hospital. Tariq was the last still alive, three weeks later. Laila realizes that she’s hot and sweating, and despite her best efforts pictures Tariq’s parents trapped... (full context)
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...from an older injury. He had internal injuries as well, in addition to bad burns. Laila wills herself not to collapse, unable to imagine Tariq legless. Abdul Sharif tells Laila that... (full context)
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When Abdul Sharif said he was going to Kabul, Tariq had asked him to find Laila and tell her he was thinking of her, and missed her. Abdul Sharif promised to... (full context)
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Laila realizes she’s nodding—she’s known all along what news this man would bring. Abdul Sharif apologizes,... (full context)
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Laila sits, immobile, her hands in her lap, willing her mind towards a better place, with... (full context)
Part III: Chapter 29
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...recalling Rasheed’s rants against Massoud as a communist traitor, but then realizes that Massoud, like Laila, is a Tajik. (full context)
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...earlier years. Mariam says she’s never asked him for anything before this. Rasheed counters that Laila can’t just stay there—he’s not the Red Cross. He says it’s common for men to... (full context)
Part III: Chapter 30
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Laila stays in bed the next day, up until Rasheed returns from the barber with a... (full context)
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Before Abdul Sharif’s visit, Laila had decided to leave for Pakistan. But now, she’s begun to have nausea in the... (full context)
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Laila knows that her agreement to wed Rasheed is dishonorable, shameful, and unfair to Mariam, but... (full context)
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Laila would only remember fragments from the ceremony, including Mariam watching, disapproving. Laila can’t bring herself... (full context)
Part III: Chapter 31
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...all eat together, and tries to get Mariam to talk to the girl. He tells Laila that Mariam is a village girl, a harami, but is a good worker and has... (full context)
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...that he doesn’t want to speak ill of the dead, but he is concerned about Laila’s parents’ leniency with her. Mariam sees the girl’s look of hatred, though Rasheed misses it.... (full context)
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...subject of the other night, Mariam says she won’t be her servant. She says that Laila can’t use her looks against Mariam, and snaps that she can start contributing to the... (full context)
Part III: Chapter 32
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Laila recalls a gathering years earlier on one of Mammy’s good days. Their neighbor Wajma had... (full context)
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Laila is thinking about this story when she tells Rasheed about the baby. He immediately cycles... (full context)
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...who is fighting the Pakistan-supported Hekmatyar. Fires engulf western Kabul, embassies close and schools collapse. Laila dreams about the free, open Kabul of her childhood. But then her thoughts turn to... (full context)
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...talks of his hopes for their son, and how he will resemble his father, filling Laila with fear.  (full context)
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...earlier, when Mariam accused her of hiding a long wooden spoon. For the first time, Laila yelled back back, and they ended up hurling insults at each other. They haven’t spoken... (full context)
Part III: Chapter 33
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...One.” Some nights Mariam hears them arguing, about how the baby, a girl, has stolen Laila’s attentions, or how she refuses to start sleeping with him again. Mariam takes a perverse... (full context)
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...also impressive. Rasheed is not nearly as enthralled by Aziza, and rolls his eyes at Laila. Mariam recalls that earlier, in his eyes, Laila could do no wrong, but instead of... (full context)
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...radio that one in four Afghan children will die before the age of five, so Laila shouldn’t get so attached. She storms upstairs, and later that night Mariam hears them bickering... (full context)
Part III: Chapter 34
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Laila adores lying next to Aziza and watching her, whispering stories about her father Tariq. Sometimes... (full context)
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Laila shivers to think what would happen if Rasheed knew that each week since Aziza’s birth,... (full context)
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Two days later, Laila finds a stack of girl baby clothes outside her room, neatly folded. That night, Rasheed... (full context)
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Later that night, when Rasheed is asleep, Laila goes down to the kitchen, where Mariam is cleaning trout. She thanks Mariam for the... (full context)
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Laila proposes that they two have a cup of chai in the yard. They end up... (full context)
Part III: Chapter 35
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Now Mariam and Laila do their chores together, keeping an eye on Aziza in her bassinet. Mariam grows to... (full context)
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One day that winter, Laila asks to braid Mariam’s hair as Aziza is curled up asleep on the floor. Mariam... (full context)
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...night, Mariam doesn’t sleep. She’s spent these years hopeless, numb to everything happening around her—until Laila and Aziza (another harami, she now knows) entered her life. Despite her anguished past, Mariam... (full context)
Part III: Chapter 36
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That morning, in spring 1994, Laila is convinced Rasheed knows of their escape plan. But he leaves for work as usual.... (full context)
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...reigns. Women are forbidden from traveling without a companion, and adultery is punished with stoning. Laila also knows that the Pakistani border is officially closed to Afghans, but people still manage... (full context)
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Eventually, Laila finds a kind-looking man sitting on a park bench. She tells him that she is... (full context)
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Wakil motions towards Laila when it’s time to board. As he climbs onto the bus, he whispers something to... (full context)
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At the police station, they are forced to sit apart for three hours. Laila is interviewed alone, and a soldier says he knows she’s already told one lie. He... (full context)
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Laila begs him to let them leave, saying that there’s no telling what Rasheed will do... (full context)
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Rasheed drags Laila upstairs. She starts to insist that it was her idea, not Mariam’s, and at once... (full context)
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Rasheed nails boards across Laila’s window, so it’s impossible for her to tell the time of day. Aziza asks for... (full context)
Part III: Chapter 37
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Laila says that they can’t shut down half the population in Kabul, where women have practiced... (full context)
Part III: Chapter 38
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...poets. Marco Polo Restaurant is turned into an interrogation center. Cinemas are shut down, and Laila remembers having gone to see melodramatic Hindi films with Tariq. Mariam wonders what’s happened to... (full context)
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...the spectacle of punishments at Ghazi Stadium while drinking a Pepsi. At night, he tells Laila of the hangings and beheadings he’s seen. Laila calls the Taliban savages, but Rasheed counters... (full context)
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Rasheed tells Laila that he’s noticed Aziza has an interesting eye color—it’s neither his nor hers. He says... (full context)
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Rasheed’s words make Laila sick, especially since she knows they’re true. But her queasiness persists, until it becomes something... (full context)
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Not long after, Laila snaps a metal spoke off an old bicycle wheel. She lies on her back on... (full context)
Part III: Chapter 39
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...the nurse finally calls them in. The burqa-clad doctor is small and harried-looking. After examining Laila, she says the baby is in the breech position and they’ll have to perform a... (full context)
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...operate in burqa, but a nurse keeps watch at the door. Mariam positions herself behind Laila’s head and holds her hands as she shivers, grits her teeth, and finally screams. (full context)
Part III: Chapter 40
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It’s fall 1999, and Mariam and Laila take turns digging a hole, which is more demanding than it should be, since it’s... (full context)
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Zalmai is two now, plump with curly hair and rosy cheeks like Rasheed. When Laila is alone with him, he’s sweet and playful. Her stomach turns when she thinks about... (full context)
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That night, in fact, Rasheed tells Laila he’s decided to send Aziza into the street to beg at a corner—many families in... (full context)
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Mariam and Laila are now digging in the yard to hide the TV for awhile, since the Taliban... (full context)
Part III: Chapter 41
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...copies into Kabul and watch with the volume down late at night. Sometimes, Mariam and Laila unearth the TV to watch with the children. Kabul River has dried up and the... (full context)
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...must sell everything. Rasheed stays home every day, slapping Aziza, kicking Mariam, and yelling at Laila. He is fired from a job at a kebab house for getting into a fight,... (full context)
Part III: Chapter 42
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It’s April 2001, shortly before Laila turns twenty-three, and Aziza is packing a few clothes and possessions. A few days earlier,... (full context)
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Laila has told Aziza that she’s going to a special school where the children stay to... (full context)
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The orphanage director, Zaman, is kind-looking, though Laila catches a glimpse of children with disheveled hair in ragged clothes, and of a weedy... (full context)
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When it’s time to leave, Aziza panics, and on the way home Laila can’t get her cries or desperation out of her head. At first, Rasheed accompanies her,... (full context)
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One day Rasheed says he won’t accompany Laila anymore. She keeps trying to visit the orphanage, though half the time she is stopped... (full context)
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...with Zaman. Aziza is always chatty during visits, laughing in a new way—meant to reassure, Laila thinks. She can tell Aziza is embarrassed by the dirt under her fingernails, or if... (full context)
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As they approach the orphanage, Aziza grows quiet, and Laila has to be the chatty one. When she leaves, Laila thinks about Aziza’s stutter, and... (full context)
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When they arrive home, Zalmai yells at an unknown man to get away. Laila follows his pointing finger and sees a man at the front door, limping towards them.... (full context)
Part III: Chapter 43
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...mood. He had looked at Tariq suspiciously, and soon descends into a crying tantrum, until Laila has to come upstairs to hold and rock him. (full context)
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...lie with all its details, and how much Rasheed had paid Abdul Sharif to tell Laila the story of Tariq’s death. (full context)
Part III: Chapter 44
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Tariq is telling Laila about one of the men in a jail cell with him, whose cousin had been... (full context)
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Laila marvels how adult Tariq seems. He is still handsome but with weathered instead of fair... (full context)
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...at a summer retreat called Murree built by the British. Tariq says he’s sorry about Laila’s parents—he talked to some neighbors earlier. He says he doesn’t recognize Kabul, and Laila admits... (full context)
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Tariq tells Laila about his family’s stay at a refugee camp in Pakistan with sixty thousand other Afghans.... (full context)
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...to dinner that night: Zalmai says the man has a limp. Rasheed, stony-faced, says that Laila let Tariq into his home, with his son. Laila says that he lied to her,... (full context)
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That night: Rasheed asks if Laila let Tariq see her face, and Zalmai pipes in that she did. (full context)
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That afternoon: Tariq says that her son doesn’t like her much. Laila feels guilty, knowing that Zalmai is simply a child who loves his father, and his... (full context)
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Laila says, again, that she thought Tariq was dead. She asks for his forgiveness for having... (full context)
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As Tariq leaves, he says he wants to meet Aziza. Laila thinks back to the times they’d met in secret in the alley, ten years before.... (full context)
Part III: Chapter 45
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...from Zalmai, he accompanies him upstairs. Zalmai shoots a sorrowful, contrite glance at Mariam and Laila before leaving. Mariam can see how Rasheed is thinking—as he was toiling as a lowly... (full context)
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Rasheed returns with a belt, and swings it at Laila, hitting her temple. He lashes her again and again. Laila tries to defend herself, and... (full context)
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As Rasheed approaches Mariam with his belt, Laila picks up a drinking glass from the ground, and hits it against the side of... (full context)
Part III: Chapter 46
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Rasheed is lying over Laila, and she begins to see stars. As darkness falls, she vaguely makes out the faces... (full context)
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...wrap Rasheed in a bedsheet and carry him into the yard, though at one point Laila collapses and cries.  They leave him in the toolshed, and Mariam says she needs to... (full context)
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Laila finds Zalmai waiting for Rasheed to say his prayers with them. He asks where his... (full context)
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When Laila wakes up, the fog from the night before has lifted. She goes into Mariam’s room... (full context)
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Mariam says that there’s nothing more she wants than for Laila and her children to have a future. Laila and her children have made her happier... (full context)
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Mariam packs a lunch for Aziza and Zalmai, and tells Laila to kiss Aziza for her. Laila says she wants to see Mariam before she testifies,... (full context)
Part III: Chapter 47
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...but she finds herself, in these last seconds, wishing for more of it—more time with Laila, the ability to see Aziza grown up, to play with her children. (full context)
Part IV: Chapter 48
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The narrator shifts into the present tense in Part IV, as Laila and Tariq have made it to Murree, They had married the day the arrived. Sayeed... (full context)
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Laila likes living in Murree, with its tourist attractions and natural beauty, though the locals bemoan... (full context)
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Laila had told Aziza about her real father a few days after the wedding ceremony, and... (full context)
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...hand, is sullen and rebels against Tariq, saying he’s not his real father. Every night, Laila tells him the same lie about Baba jan (Rasheed) having gone away. She knows that... (full context)
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...shows them the Jhelum River valley, or to Nathia Gali and the Governor’s House. When Laila catches their reflections in a store window, she thinks how normal and content they must... (full context)
Part IV: Chapter 49
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...when a bomb hidden in their video camera went off —they were probably from Al-Qaeda. Laila recalls how Mammy had always refused to blame Massoud, even after the warring between factions.... (full context)
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Tariq suggests that war with the Americans might not be so bad in the end. Laila is shocked, asking him how he can say such a thing. Her voice rising, she... (full context)
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...Tariq rocks him back and forth. When he comes back to bed, they’re silent, but Laila reaches over and sees that Tariq has been crying. (full context)
Part IV: Chapter 50
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Life in Murree is comfortable and calm, the kind that Laila used to dream of when she was with Rasheed. She is thankful for it, but... (full context)
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Laila has to convince Aziza, who still has nightmares, that Kabul is safer now. As Sayeed... (full context)
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After a night in a hotel, Tariq finds Laila a taxi, since she wants to go alone. Zalmai starts to cry when she leaves,... (full context)
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...the Soviets bombed the city in retaliation. Thousands were killed, including the driver’s two sisters. Laila marvels at the grief and loss that is present in every Afghan’s story, but also... (full context)
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...stopping in front of a walled one-story house. A middle-aged man opens the door. When Laila asks for Mullah Faizullah’s house, he says that he is his son Hamza. She’s come... (full context)
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Laila tells Hamza everything. Near the end she struggles to stay composed. After a long silence,... (full context)
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Laila asks Hamza to show her where Mariam lived. They walk fifteen minutes downhill, and then... (full context)
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Upon their return, Hamza gives Laila a box, which Jalil had given to his father before he died, asking him to... (full context)
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Back at the hotel, Laila opens the box to find an envelope, a burlap sack, and a videocassette. Laila asks... (full context)
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That night, after they’ve eaten dinner and returned to the hotel, Laila tells Tariq about the letter and shows him the money in the sack. He holds... (full context)
Part IV: Chapter 51
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Finally, in April 2003, the drought has ended. Laila and Tariq have rented a house in Deh-Mazang, and Tariq has built a slide and... (full context)
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Aziza and Laila wake up at five every morning for prayers—Aziza’s way of staying close to Mariam. Tariq... (full context)
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...a piece recently about the renovation. As she looks at the picture of Zaman, Tariq, Laila, and another attendant behind the children, Laila thinks about Giti and Hasina, and Hasina’s prediction... (full context)
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...it depictions of men with AK-47s or refugee camp tents. The children run to greet Laila, sometimes calling her Mother. In the classroom, she tells the children to open their Farsi... (full context)
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When they first returned to Kabul, Laila hated that she didn’t know where Mariam was buried. Now, though, she knows Mariam is... (full context)
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Laila realizes Aziza has been calling to her while she’s been thinking. As she’s walking to... (full context)