A Thousand Splendid Suns

A Thousand Splendid Suns

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Mariam Character Analysis

One of the novel’s protagonists, Mariam is the illegitimate daughter of one of the most successful businessmen in the city of Herat, Jalil. She grows up in a small hut several kilometers outside the city with her mother, Nana, before being married off at the age of fifteen to Rasheed and moving to Kabul. Throughout her life, Mariam is plagued by the shame of being a harami, or bastard (illegitimate child)—in addition to the greater shame of believing she contributed to her mother’s suicide. After feeling unwanted by and unimportant to Jalil, she is also shunned by her husband when she is unable to bear him a child. This lack of love and belonging is a constant theme throughout Mariam’s life, but she has a remarkable ability to endure and persevere through suffering—often with the help of the Koran verses that she spent her childhood memorizing. After finally finding a sense of belonging with Laila and her daughter, Mariam makes the ultimate sacrifice, giving up her own life so that those she loves can be free. She is the novel’s most powerful example of both the suffering and strength of women in Afghanistan.

Mariam Quotes in A Thousand Splendid Suns

The A Thousand Splendid Suns quotes below are all either spoken by Mariam or refer to Mariam. 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 I: Chapter 1 Quotes

She understood then what Nana meant, that a harami was an unwanted thing: that she, Mariam, was an illegitimate person who would never have legitimate claim to the things other people had, things such as love, family, home, acceptance.

Related Characters: Mariam, Nana
Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:

The first time Mariam hears the word "harami" is when she breaks a piece of Nana's beloved tea set—it is a way for Nana express her anger and condemn Mariam. As a five-year-old, Mariam could not grasp the full implications of the word, which means "bastard." But here Mariam claims that she understood the implications of the word even as a small child. "Harami," as a term of shame and judgment, carries with it a label that stigmatizes the person as unloved and unwanted. This is something that Mariam grasps almost immediately and deeply fears: it is why she will cling so closely to Jalil, who seems to offer a way to escape from such isolation. Nana's use of the word also underlines just how much even she, as someone who suffers from the rigid social structures in place, has internalized these structures herself, such that she has almost come to believe what they imply for her and her daughter.

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Part I: Chapter 3 Quotes

“It’s our lot in life, Mariam. Women like us. We endure. It’s all we have. Do you understand?”

Related Characters: Nana (speaker), Mariam
Page Number: 19
Explanation and Analysis:

Mariam has told Nana that she would appreciate the chance to go to school, like Jalil's other children. But Nana is skeptical that this is a possibility, and besides, she doesn't think that Mariam needs the kinds of skills she would learn in school. Instead, Nana tells Mariam, she only needs to learn how to "endure." This advice is not only for Mariam: in using the first-person plural of "us" and "we," Nana lumps herself in this category as well.

"Women like us," according to Nana, are women who have been abandoned by society and are condemned to live at its fringes. Importantly, Nana does not include all marginalized people in this group, but only the women: as the group structurally prevented from attaining the same opportunities as men, women are doubly affected when they are also poor and exist outside of traditional family structures. Nana has a deterministic view of this society; that is, she does not seem to believe that any aspect of society itself can be changed. Instead, she and Mariam can only learn how to live based on what is permitted to them. They are condemned to suffer, but their "success" will depend on how well they react to this suffering—how well they persevere.

Part I: Chapter 6 Quotes

For the first time, Mariam could hear [Jalil] with Nana’s ears. She could hear so clearly now the insincerity that had always lurked beneath, the hollow, false assurances.

One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs,

Or the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls.”

Related Characters: Mariam (speaker), Jalil
Page Number: 38
Explanation and Analysis:

Mariam has returned to Jalil's house after Nana's funeral, and Jalil has told her that he will allow her to stay with him. There was a time when nothing would have made Mariam happier than to be able to live with Jalil. Now, however, Nana's suicide has changed everything. It is not that Jalil's character has been transformed by Nana's death: instead, Mariam simply recognizes the aspects of his character that she had been unable or unwilling to see all along.

Throughout Mariam's childhood, she had idolized Jalil, refusing to see him through Nana's eyes and instead remaining convinced that he was a kind, good father. Only now can she recognize that what she believed to be his goodness was only a pleasant façade concealing a deeper insincerity. After all, Jalil directly participated in keeping Mariam and Nana isolated and apart from his "true" family. Now Mariam's loyalty has shifted definitively to Nana. However, this change of heart comes too late for Nana, who did not live to see her daughter fully come to to terms with her father's true self. Mariam's belated realization will long haunt her.

Part I: Chapter 10 Quotes

“But I’m a different breed of man, Mariam. Where I come from, one wrong look, one improper word, and blood is spilled. Where I come from, a woman’s face is her husband’s business only. I want you to remember that. Do you understand?”

Related Characters: Rasheed (speaker), Mariam
Page Number: 70
Explanation and Analysis:

Rasheed is pleased with the dinner Mariam has cooked for him, and he offers to show her around Kabul the next day. But he will require her to wear a floor-length burqa: as he hands it to her, he scornfully talks about the more modern men in the neighborhood, who allow their wives to walk around in short skirts. Like Mariam, Rasheed is from a more rural part of Afghanistan, where more modern, Western customs are not only looked down upon but are often unthinkable.

It is not so much that Mariam is bothered by these customs of dress, but rather by what these customs symbolize in Rasheed's mind. For him, the burqa is meant to proclaim that Mariam is his property, that she belongs to him alone. Even her face cannot be seen by others for risk of allowing other men to have so much as a glimpse of this property. Mariam feels suffocated, not to mention intimidated, by these assumptions, which seem to rely on a code of violent patriarchal honor and reputation.

Part I: Chapter 15 Quotes

It wasn’t easy tolerating him talking this way to her, to bear his scorn, his ridicule, his insults, his walking past her like she was nothing but a house cat. But after four years of marriage, Mariam saw clearly how much a woman could tolerate when she was afraid.

Related Characters: Mariam, Rasheed
Page Number: 98
Explanation and Analysis:

Mariam has had multiple miscarriages in the years since she first married Rasheed, and she knows that her husband is furious at her for not giving him a son, a prized and crucial possession among traditional families. Rasheed has lost any minor tenderness that he once may have shown Mariam, and now in addition to feeling scorned and ridiculed Mariam also has to deal with being frightened by Rasheed's unpredictable moods and tendency to beat her. 

Rasheed treats Mariam not as a fellow human being, much less his own wife, but as an animal or a possession, something hardly worthy of attention. Mariam had hoped that she would find long-sought love with her new husband, but now that hope seems wildly naive and optimistic. Instead, Mariam begins to espouse some of the same beliefs that Nana had tried to equip her with when Mariam was a child. She has learned to "tolerate" all that Rasheed hurls at her, rather than fight or challenge him. Fear, rather than preventing her from persevering through the shameful way he treats her, is what ensures that she will be able to accept what happens to her.

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.

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 35 Quotes

“Why have you pinned your heart to an old, ugly hag like me?” Mariam would murmur into Aziza’s hair. “Huh? I am nobody, don’t you see? A dehati. What have I got to give you?”

But Aziza only muttered contentedly and dug her face in deeper. And when she did that, Mariam swooned. Her eyes watered. Her heart took flight. And she marveled at how, after all these years of rattling loose, she had found in this little creature the first true connection in her life of false, failed connections.

Related Characters: Mariam (speaker)
Page Number: 252
Explanation and Analysis:

Since the end of their mutual suspicion and dislike, Mariam and Laila have grown continually closer, creating a surrogate family out of the two of them and Aziza—a truer family than the traditional one headed by Rasheed. Mariam’s murmurs to Aziza reflect the joyful shock that Mariam feels at being accepted and loved, for perhaps the first time in her life. As an infant, Aziza is unaware of Mariam’s shameful status as a "harami" and of her past of isolation and unhappiness.

Mariam takes solace in Aziza’s unquestioning contentment in her arms, even as she marvels that this contentment is even possible. Before now, the mere idea of children would only have served to remind Mariam of her own failure in giving Rasheed a child, especially a son. Rather than feel bitter that Laila has had such an opportunity, or upset at the existence of a child not her own in the household, Mariam delights in the chance to forge a real connection thanks to her growing friendship with Laila.

[Mariam] had passed these years in a distant corner of her mind. A dry, barren field, out beyond dream and disillusionment. There, the future did not matter. And the past held only this wisdom: that love was a damaging mistake, and its accomplice, hope, a treacherous illusion.

Related Characters: Mariam
Page Number: 256
Explanation and Analysis:

Mariam goes through the past years of her marriage to Rasheed in her mind, recognizing the sense of disillusionment that has been the only way she has found to deal with Rasheed’s overbearing nature and the numbing disappointments that have characterized her life with him. Now Mariam recognizes that in order to persevere in her life with Rasheed, she has had to give up on some of the ideals that she held as a child. Before Nana’s death, Mariam had dreamed of finding love and belonging, first with Jalil and his family, and then, at the beginning, with a new life as the wife of Rasheed. Both of those possibilities had turned out to be false hopes. As a result, Mariam has learned to be suspicious of any of those hopes or desires. Instead, she has pushed them aside, preferring not to hope for anything better so that she will not be disappointed once again. Mariam only now recognizes this “dry, barren field” by which she describes her past as she begins to wonder if there is in fact another possibility—if she need not push all thoughts of hope or love aside.

Part III: Chapter 41 Quotes

Mariam regretted her foolish, youthful pride now. She wished now that she had let him in. what would have been the harm to let him in, sit with him, let him say what he’d come to say? He was her father. He’d not been a good father, it was true, but how ordinary his faults seemed now how forgivable, when compared to Rasheed’s malice, or to the brutality and violence that she had seen men inflict on one another.

Related Characters: Mariam, Rasheed, Jalil
Page Number: 309
Explanation and Analysis:

Mariam has gone to the Intercontinental Hotel with Rasheed to attempt to call Jalil. They want to ask if he can help the family, as the children are going hungry and they are in a desperate situation. Mariam has not seen Jalil for thirteen years, since he came to see her at Rasheed’s house, and she had refused to go out to meet him. Thinking back on that moment, Mariam decides she was wrong to stubbornly refuse to see her father. She does not argue that Jalil was blameless, or that she should forgive him for his behavior with her and Nana. But having lived longer and having seen greater suffering and greater evil, Mariam now acknowledges that Jalil’s sins are not on the same level as those of the Taliban, for instance, or even of Rasheed.

Mariam has developed a more nuanced understanding of the way that love and loyalty can function in families. She does not expect love to mean that families will be perfect, or that family members will not hurt each other, but she has come to accept that she can still acknowledge her father and respect him without forgetting about the pain he caused her.

Part III: Chapter 47 Quotes

Though there had been moments of beauty in it. Mariam knew that life for the most part had been unkind to her. But as she walked the final twenty paces, she could not help but wish for more of it. […] Yet as she closed her eyes, it was not regret any longer but a sensation of abundant peace that washed over her. She thought of her entry into this world, the harami daughter of a lowly villager, an unintended thing, a pitiable, regrettable accident. A weed. And yet she was leaving the world as a woman who had loved and been loved back.

Related Characters: Mariam
Page Number: 370
Explanation and Analysis:

In the final moments of Mariam’s life, as she walks out into the stadium and prepares to be executed, she once again considers her life in her mind as if going through film reels. Mariam compares the difficulties and acute suffering she has experienced to the “moments of beauty” that she remembers with Laila and Aziza. These moments were fleeting and rare compared to the regular pain, and yet for Mariam they are worth much more—and it would even be worth living longer and suffering more in order to also live through more of such moments.

Although Mariam does wish she could live longer, she ends her life with a feeling of contentment rather than regret. After yearning for love and belonging at the beginning of her life, she had pushed those hopes away, only to have them offered to her when she least expected it—not through the love of a father or of a husband but through that of a female friend. She clings to this love, which to her means more than the shame of being a harami or the isolation of being continually unwanted and considered low in the hierarchy of her society, as a kind of solace even in the midst of the final violent act that will end her life.

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Mariam Character Timeline in A Thousand Splendid Suns

The timeline below shows where the character Mariam appears in A Thousand Splendid Suns. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part I: Chapter 1
Shame and Reputation Theme Icon
Mariam remembers the first time she heard the word “harami,” or bastard. She is five years... (full context)
Suffering and Perseverance Theme Icon
Love, Loyalty, and Belonging Theme Icon
Mariam adores Jalil, who never calls her such a name, but instead visits and tells her... (full context)
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...and is very wealthy. Nana was one of his housekeepers, but then became pregnant with Mariam. Her own father disowned her and Jalil sent her off to live in the one-room... (full context)
Part I: Chapter 2
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Nana explains to Mariam that she refused to live in Herat, where the neighbors would whisper about her. Instead,... (full context)
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Nana says that when she gave birth to Mariam, in spring 1959, Jalil hadn’t bothered to call a doctor. She describes her pain to... (full context)
Part I: Chapter 3
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...her arms crossed and a defiant posture, cursing their mothers and making faces at them. Mariam feels sorry for them. Once she yells an insult at them, just to please Nana,... (full context)
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Nana teaches Mariam to cook and sew. She only admits a few visitors: the village leader Habib Khan,... (full context)
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One day, Mariam confides that she’d like to go to school—Bibi jo had mentioned that Jalil’s other daughters... (full context)
Part I: Chapter 4
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Though Mariam loves having visitors, she treasures Jalil’s visits each Thursday the most. Each week she awaits... (full context)
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Jalil shows Mariam how to fish, teaches her rhymes, and shows her clippings from Herat’s newspaper—a piece of... (full context)
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Jalil gives Mariam a leaf-shaped pendant. Mariam loves it, but Nana scoffs that it’s just nomad jewelry made... (full context)
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After Jalil’s visits, Mariam always wonders what his life in Herat is like, and imagines living with him and... (full context)
Part I: Chapter 5
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For Mariam’s fifteenth birthday, she asks Jalil to take her to see the American film that is... (full context)
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Nana is furious when she hears, and mocks Mariam for thinking she’s wanted in Jalil’s house. She tries to make Mariam guilty by saying... (full context)
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The next day, Mariam dresses in her nicest hijab and sits by the stream to meet Jalil. After an... (full context)
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A young woman opens the door, and when Mariam introduces herself, she runs inside. Jalil’s chauffeur comes to the door and says Jalil’s not... (full context)
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On the way back, Mariam cries out of disillusionment, anger, and mainly shame at how much she idealized Jalil and... (full context)
Part I: Chapter 6
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After Nana’s funeral, Jalil brings Mariam back to the kolba to gather her things. Mullah Faizullah arrives and tries to comfort... (full context)
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Jalil tells Mariam she can stay in his house, but now Mariam sees through his façade and understands... (full context)
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On Mariam’s second day, Niloufar, another of Jalil’s daughters, comes into the room to get her gramophone.... (full context)
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The next day, Mullah Faizullah comes to visit Mariam. She admits that she keeps thinking of what Nana said to her before she left.... (full context)
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The next week, Niloufar’s mother Afsoon tells Mariam she needs to come downstairs—it’s important that they talk to her. (full context)
Part I: Chapter 7
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Jalil and his wives—Afsoon, Khadija, and Nargis—sit across from Mariam at a long dark table. They make awkward small talk. Mariam looks through the window... (full context)
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Khadija tells Mariam that she has a suitor named Rasheed, a friend of Jalil’s business colleague. He’s a... (full context)
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...died during childbirth, and his son drowned a few years ago, so he’s suffered too. Mariam begs Jalil not to make her go. The wives continue to try to convince her,... (full context)
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Mariam tries to imagine living in Kabul, 650 kilometers away, and cooking and cleaning for Rasheed.... (full context)
Part I: Chapter 8
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In the morning, Mariam is given a long-sleeved green dress and hijab, and taken to the same room as... (full context)
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...brief since Rasheed has bus tickets to Kabul for that day. When the mullah asks Mariam if she accepts this man as her husband, she initially stays quiet. After a few... (full context)
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They exchange thin gold bands, and Mariam signs her name to the contract. The narrator tells us that twenty-seven years later, when... (full context)
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As Mariam and Rasheed wait for the bus, Jalil tells Mariam how beautiful Kabul is. Unable to... (full context)
Part I: Chapter 9
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...which he explains is in the southwest part of Kabul, near the zoo and university. Mariam has to pay close attention to understand his Kabuli dialect of Farsi. (full context)
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...shed. The house is smaller than Jalil’s but much larger than the kolba. But as Mariam looks around, she misses the familiarity of home, and realizes she is in a stranger’s... (full context)
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...two bedrooms, and Rasheed gives her the guest room since he likes to sleep alone. Mariam is relieved. He shows her white tuberoses he’s placed in the windowsills for her. He... (full context)
Part I: Chapter 10
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The first few days, Mariam mainly stays in her room, watching Rasheed leave for work on his bicycle. She looks... (full context)
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...things he’s heard on the street, such as about the American president Richard Nixon, who Mariam has never heard of. One night, instead of saying good night, he tells Mariam she’s... (full context)
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The next morning Mariam unpacks and begins to cook lentils, carrots, and potatoes, kneading dough the way Nana showed... (full context)
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A round, light-skinned woman taps Mariam on the shoulder, introducing herself as Fariba and saying she must be Rasheed’s new wife.... (full context)
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That night, Rasheed seems pleased to see dinner set out. Mariam is nervous, but Rasheed says that it’s good. Rasheed offers to show Mariam around Kabul... (full context)
Part I: Chapter 11
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Mariam tries on the burqa and is unnerved by the suffocating fabric and her inability to... (full context)
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Mariam is fascinated by the women in this neighborhood, who seem independent and carefree, accompanying children... (full context)
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Rasheed taps Mariam on her shoulder and shows her a maroon shawl he’s bought for her. He asks... (full context)
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That night, Rasheed enters her room and lies down on her bed. Mariam starts shivering as he begins to touch her and removes their clothes. As he rolls... (full context)
Part I: Chapter 12
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That fall, during Ramadan, Mariam is surprised at how the entire city shuts down. She enjoys breaking the fast each... (full context)
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Mariam recalls how Jalil would visit Mariam and Nana at the first of the three days... (full context)
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This year, Mariam and Rasheed walk the streets and she is astounded by the liveliness. They see Fariba... (full context)
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...call out Eid mubarak to her, and that night they watch fireworks above the city. Mariam wishes her mother was alive to see this, to know that even Mariam could have... (full context)
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For Eid, Rasheed invites friends to her home, and tells Mariam to stay upstairs while they’re there. She is flattered that Rasheed values her honor, and... (full context)
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In the bottom drawer, Mariam finds a picture of Jalil’s son, Yunus, and below that, a beautiful woman standing next... (full context)
Part I: Chapter 13
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Mariam rides a bus home from the doctor’s, where she learned that she’s pregnant. Rasheed is... (full context)
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The next day Mariam finds Rasheed building a crib that the baby, which he continues to refer to as... (full context)
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The next night, Rasheed invites friends over to celebrate. Mariam cooks and cleans all day. She sits upstairs as the men laugh and eat below... (full context)
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Following that night, Mariam attends a women’s hamam, where she is scrubbing herself when, suddenly, there is blood and... (full context)
Part I: Chapter 14
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Mariam’s grief seems to wash over her at unexpected times, in overwhelming ways, though other days... (full context)
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Sometimes, Mariam thinks that she is being punished for abandoning Nana. Other days, she is angry at... (full context)
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Rasheed, meanwhile, has grown moody and silent, complaining about Mariam’s cooking or cleaning. He no longer buys her gifts or shows her around Kabul. One... (full context)
Part I: Chapter 15
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...man named Mir Akbar Khyber is found murdered, leading to a massive demonstration in Kabul. Mariam sees outside the window neighbors milling about, including Fariba with another woman, holding a little... (full context)
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...Khyber had been a communist, and his supporters are blaming his death on the government. Mariam tries to ask who the communists are and what they want, but Rasheed, even though... (full context)
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Mariam is increasingly afraid of Rasheed’s violent moods and increasingly common beatings. In the four years... (full context)
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On April 27, Mariam awakens to the sound of military planes whooshing past and bombs hitting the ground outside... (full context)
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Later, Mariam will learn that along with executions of loyalists, the communists had killed twenty members of... (full context)
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Back at Mariam’s, Rasheed shoves a ball of rice into his mouth and then spits it out disgustedly,... (full context)
Part II: Chapter 19
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...gather around the room to listen to a cassette player of chants from the Koran. Mariam, Rasheed’s wife, enters in a black hijab and sits across from Laila. Mammy sways back... (full context)
Part III: Chapter 27
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Mariam leans in, asking if “the girl” knows who she is. The girl asks her to... (full context)
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...“the girl”) that her friend Tariq’s house is now occupied by some of Sayyaf’s men. Mariam sometimes sees them playing cards and smoking next to their Kalashnikovs. The oldest is scornful... (full context)
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Slowly, the girl gets better. One day, she confides to Mariam that she shouldn’t be alive: Babi wanted to take out the boxes of books, but... (full context)
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...Sharif comes to see the girl. She says she doesn’t know who he is, but Mariam tells her to come down and talk to him. (full context)
Part III: Chapter 29
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...tells the girl he’s very sorry, and knows the two of them were close friends. Mariam watches him, recalling how for years he’s eaten with his hands, in silence, only letting... (full context)
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...the Soviets are gone and innocent people are being killed—they should have armed “Commander Massoud.” Mariam is shocked, recalling Rasheed’s rants against Massoud as a communist traitor, but then realizes that... (full context)
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Later, as Mariam is washing the dishes, she thinks about what a performance Rasheed has put on. She... (full context)
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When she finally confronts Rasheed, he simply says, “Why not?” and Mariam knows she’s defeated. Rasheed is at least sixty, now with thick white hair and saggy... (full context)
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That night, Mariam tells the girl about Rasheed’s proposal. For a long time, she says nothing, but then... (full context)
Part III: Chapter 30
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...from the barber with a new haircut, a new suit, and a wedding band—he’s traded Mariam’s old ring for it. Laila asks him to take it back, but he smiles and... (full context)
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Laila knows that her agreement to wed Rasheed is dishonorable, shameful, and unfair to Mariam, but she is committed to sacrificing anything for her child. (full context)
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Laila would only remember fragments from the ceremony, including Mariam watching, disapproving. Laila can’t bring herself to meet Mariam’s gaze. That night, as Rasheed undresses... (full context)
Part III: Chapter 31
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Mariam barely sees the girl during the day, but they sometimes inevitably run into each other,... (full context)
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At night, Rasheed insists they all eat together, and tries to get Mariam to talk to the girl. He tells Laila that Mariam is a village girl, a... (full context)
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...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. Now, he says, Laila is... (full context)
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One day, Mariam is folding laundry when she turns around and sees the girl in the doorway. She... (full context)
Part III: Chapter 32
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...He immediately cycles to the mosque to pray for a boy. Rasheed cheerfully, cruelly tells Mariam, who looks devastated. Mariam snaps that Laila is still responsible for chores. Laila is about... (full context)
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...shipwreck survivor, drifting amidst miles of water. She ambles through the house before running into Mariam, and then feels guilty and ashamed. (full context)
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Rasheed asks how things are with Mariam, and she doesn’t tell him about their first real fight a few days earlier, when... (full context)
Part III: Chapter 33
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One morning the next spring, in 1993, Mariam watches from the window as Rasheed, overly attentive, accompanies “the girl,” as Mariam continues to... (full context)
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...Moses. He never uses the baby’s real name, Aziza, or the “Cherished One.” Some nights Mariam hears them arguing, about how the baby, a girl, has stolen Laila’s attentions, or how... (full context)
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Mariam finds the girl’s enthusiasm annoying, but also impressive. Rasheed is not nearly as enthralled by... (full context)
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...of five, so Laila shouldn’t get so attached. She storms upstairs, and later that night Mariam hears them bickering again. All at once, Rasheed storms into his room, accusing Mariam of... (full context)
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In the middle of the night, Mariam goes downstairs for a cup of water, and nearly trips over the girl and the... (full context)
Part III: Chapter 34
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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 clothes, and Mariam says she had no... (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... (full context)
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...Massoud and Rabbin’s forces in Kabul. There is looting, murder, and rape of civilians, and Mariam hears of men who would kill their own wives or daughters out of honor if... (full context)
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Mariam wonders if there’s fighting like this in Herat as well, and if Mullah Faizullah and... (full context)
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...his feet, clutching his leg, and he shakes her off brusquely. She crawls back to Mariam, looking to be comforted, though Mariam can’t give her any reassurances about fathers. (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 starts telling Laila about... (full context)
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That night, Mariam doesn’t sleep. She’s spent these years hopeless, numb to everything happening around her—until Laila and... (full context)
Part III: Chapter 36
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...knows of their escape plan. But he leaves for work as usual. As she and Mariam leave in a taxi, Laila thinks she sees Rasheed everywhere. A few weeks earlier, she’d... (full context)
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...he whispers something to the militiaman, and Laila’s heart sinks. The soldier tells her and Mariam to follow them, and that they won’t get on that bus. (full context)
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...the man’s business what he does in his own home. He sends her out, where Mariam is waiting. The police drive them home, where Rasheed is waiting. (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 Rasheed punches her and drags her by the hair into Mariam’s room,... (full context)
Part III: Chapter 37
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Two and a half years later, on September 27, 1996, Mariam awakens to the sound of firecrackers and music: the Taliban have arrived. She’d first heard... (full context)
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...others emerging from the rubble, shouting Allah-u-akbar and “Long live the Taliban!” In Pashtunistan Square, Mariam sees her first Talib, a bearded young man in a black turban. Aside him two... (full context)
Part III: Chapter 38
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...are shut down, and Laila remembers having gone to see melodramatic Hindi films with Tariq. Mariam wonders what’s happened to Jalil’s cinema.  (full context)
Part III: Chapter 39
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The waiting room at Rabia Balkhi is dirty and packed with women and children. Mariam claws her way to the front of the registration window, thinking of the sacrifices a... (full context)
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Mariam finds herself at the window and tells the nurse that her daughter’s water broke, but... (full context)
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...that they’re supposed to 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,... (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,... (full context)
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...Rasheed snatches her wrist out of the way, saying it’s Zalmai’s TV. She crawls into Mariam’s lap—they’re inseparable, and Mariam has been teaching Aziza Koran verses. The Taliban had banned television,... (full context)
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Mariam and Laila are now digging in the yard to hide the TV for awhile, since... (full context)
Part III: Chapter 41
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...smuggle pirated 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... (full context)
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...Thrown into poverty, they 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... (full context)
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But Mariam has a plan. She and Rasheed walk to the Intercontinental Hotel, and Rasheed greets one... (full context)
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Mariam thinks back to the last time she’d seen Jalil, thirteen years earlier, in the spring... (full context)
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Mariam realizes that Jalil was dying back then, and had driven from Herat to say goodbye.... (full context)
Part III: Chapter 42
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...goodbye present. Laila reminds Aziza to say that the Mujahideen killed her father. She and Mariam assure Aziza that they’ll come back to visit her all the time. (full context)
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...lot with an old swing set in the yard. Zaman says that he can tell Mariam is from Herat—a city of artists and writers. Mariam and Aziza leave for a moment,... (full context)
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...can’t get her cries or desperation out of her head. At first, Rasheed accompanies her, Mariam, and Zalmai to the orphanage for visits, though he makes sure Laila knows how much... (full context)
Part III: Chapter 43
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Mariam is looking after Zalmai upstairs, and he’s in a troublemaking mood. He had looked at... (full context)
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Mariam realizes why the doorman at the Intercontinental looked so familiar that day—she remembered him from... (full context)
Part III: Chapter 45
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...the story 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... (full context)
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...hitting her temple. He lashes her again and again. Laila tries to defend herself, and Mariam cries out pleadingly at Rasheed. Mariam claws at his face and hair, and Rasheed turns... (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... (full context)
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Mariam raises the shovel, says his name, so that he’ll see, and when he looks up,... (full context)
Part III: Chapter 46
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...makes out the faces of her children. But suddenly, the darkness starts to lift, and Mariam is shaking her, asking If she’s alright. It burns to breathe, but Laila continues to... (full context)
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...though at one point Laila collapses and cries.  They leave him in the toolshed, and Mariam says she needs to tend to Laila’s wounds. She tells Laila she needs the night... (full context)
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When Laila wakes up, the fog from the night before has lifted. She goes into Mariam’s room and says she knows what Mariam means to do. The story about the remote... (full context)
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Mariam says that there’s nothing more she wants than for Laila and her children to have... (full context)
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Mariam packs a lunch for Aziza and Zalmai, and tells Laila to kiss Aziza for her.... (full context)
Part III: Chapter 47
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Mariam is placed in the Walayat women’s prison near Chicken Street. There are no curtains or... (full context)
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...said that Naghma had cast a spell on him. He was freed and Naghma jailed. Mariam recalls Nana’s warning: men can always find a woman to blame. (full context)
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At Mariam’s trial, there had been no cross-examination, no legal council or appeals. One elderly judge spoke... (full context)
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On the last of Mariam’s ten days in prison, she watches children below her barred window, singing a rhyme Jalil... (full context)
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...yet he still was crying the day the communists took him. For the first time, Mariam cries a little. (full context)
Part IV: Chapter 50
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...her sons’ dream of a new country come true; and finally, she can’t think that Mariam died so that Laila could live comfortably as a maid in a foreign place. (full context)
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...house, he says that he is his son Hamza. She’s come about Jalil Khan’s daughter, Mariam, Laila says. At once, Hamza’s face lights up, and he asks if Mariam’s also come.... (full context)
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...to stay composed. After a long silence, Hamza says his father was incredibly fond of Mariam, and was upset when Jalil sent her away. But Mullah Faizullah lived to an old... (full context)
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Laila asks Hamza to show her where Mariam lived. They walk fifteen minutes downhill, and then up a grassy path until they reach... (full context)
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...Jalil had given to his father before he died, asking him to keep it for Mariam. His father never unlocked it, he says, so it is God’s will for it to... (full context)
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...a letter dated May 13, 1987. In it, Jalil tells how disappointed he was that Mariam did not come out to speak with him in Kabul a month earlier, but he... (full context)
Part IV: Chapter 51
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...and Laila wake up at five every morning for prayers—Aziza’s way of staying close to Mariam. Tariq now works with a French NGO that fits land mine survivors with prosthetic limbs.... (full context)
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...parents’ murderers live in fancy homes and have important ministry jobs. But she thinks of Mariam, and commits to not be resentful. She has to move on, and continue to hope. (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 present in the orphanage, in the children’s... (full context)