A stocky man asks for Laila’s parents—he has news from Panjshir. Babi asks Laila to go upstairs, and from the top of the stairs she sees the man whisper something at her parents, and then Babi’s face turning white, and Mammy screaming.
Panjshir is an unknown place both for the reader and Laila, but its very remoteness means that the messenger must be bringing news from Noor and Ahmad’s fight against the Soviets.
The next morning, women arrive at the 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. Babi also feels useless, and the only thing Mammy says is to keep him away from her.
The very personal process of grief is paired with the Afghan social customs that dictate how death should be dealt with. It is this social aspect of death that proves
That afternoon, mourners arrive and 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 and forth, her gaze blank. But Laila struggles to really feel the loss, since Ahmad and Noor had only ever seemed like characters in a story to her. It’s Tariq, instead, who is truly real to her.
The traditions of Afghanistan permeate the funeral. Meanwhile, the vast gulf between the two heroines of the novel, Mariam and Laila, is stark as they sit across from each other at the funeral, Mariam in her hijab and Laila thinking of Tariq. The funeral only marks the beginning of the suffering that Laila's family will face, but as of now that suffering hits Mammy in a way that it doesn't hit Laila.