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Study Guide: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini - BookNotes

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What Laila despises the most about war coming to Kabul is the whistling sound just before a rocket hits. It often happens at dinner and as soon as it hits and they know they are safe, Babi and Laila rush outside to see who has been buried under rubble and smoke. At night when she lays in bed, Laila watches the flares, listens to the rattling of the automatic gunfire, and counts the rockets. Some nights, sleep never comes and if it does, she dreams of fire and detached limbs and the moaning of the wounded. Morning brings no relief except when the Mujahideen lay down their guns and say the namaz on their prayer rugs. Then, they take up their arms again the noise of war starts once more. Laila and the rest of the city watch like old Santiago in Babiís paperback, who watches helplessly as the sharks take bites out of his fish.

Everywhere Laila goes she sees Massoudís men, so she takes care not to go out much and only in the company of Tariq. One day, he shows her that he has bought a gun. When she says that it frightens her, he reminds her of the three sisters who had been raped and killed the week before. He just feels better carrying, because the Mujahideen have now become warlords who claim various streets and areas of the city. Laila thinks with distaste that these are Mammyís so-called heroes - warlords. She asks Tariq if he has it in him to kill someone and he tells her that he would do it for her. This leads to their first kiss, and Laila forgets all about the mynah bird, thinking this kiss a harmless thing in the midst of all the killing and looting.

In June of 1992, there is even heavier fighting in Kabul, and Babi begs Mammy to leave the city. However, she refuses, believing that her heroes will work out their differences. She believes also that leaving the city would be a betrayal of everything her sons died for. So they are committed to staying. ďThen, the streets become so unsafe that Babi does an unthinkable thing: He has Laila drop out of school.Ē He takes over the teaching duties himself. Laila loves to listen to him teach, because when he does, he is transformed. However, not even his wonderful teaching can keep her thoughts from wandering to her stolen moments with Tariq and the feel of his kisses.

In the same month of June, tragedy comes again into Lailaís life. Giti and two of her friends are walking home from school when a stray rocket hits the three of them. Gitiís mother is so hysterical that she runs up and down the street gathering up the body parts of her daughter. Her foot is not found until two weeks later on the roof of a nearby house. At Gitiís funeral, Laila finds herself unable to comprehend that Giti is no longer alive. For the first time, all the tears she was unable to shed at her brothersí funeral now begin to pour down her face.


This chapter shows the horror of the war that has come to Kabul. Laila experiences everything from the whistle of rockets to the sound of gunfire to the death of her friend, Giti. In the midst of this horror, however, is the growing love between her and Tariq.



Laila is talking with Tariq in her living room, but she feels like she is made of cement. She can picture her life as a rotted rope, snapping, unraveling, the fibers detaching, falling away. It is August, 1992, and Babi has taken Mammy to a doctor, but Laila cannot even think of that. Instead, all she hears are Tariqís words: he and his family are going away to escape the war, because his fatherís heart canít take the killing and dying anymore. They are leaving the next day, and even though Tariq has known for awhile, he hasnít told Laila until this moment, because he knew how upset sheíd be.

Lalila berates herself for not seeing that this was coming. Their neighborhood is all but empty, because so many families have chosen to escape the fighting and carnage. Nonetheless, she begins to wail and cry, knowing itís irrational and selfish, but feeling furious with him for abandoning her. So she slaps him and pulls his hair, all the time screaming in rage. He eventually quiets her with his kisses and then, almost as if itís beyond their control, they begin to make love. In the coming days and weeks, Laila would scramble frantically to commit it all to memory, so as to salvage from the pain of knowing heís leaving the sweet moments of his love. They are amazed at their own boldness, their courage in the face of possibly being discovered, and when itís over, they are stunned by the enormity of what they have done. Laila feels shame and guilt, and yet, she almost thinks it can be done: she can go away with Tariq and his family, leave the war forever and be with the man she loves. ďThe bleak isolation awaiting her, the murderous loneliness, it doesnít have to be.Ē Tariq begs her to go, saying they can be married that very day. He knows that Babi will give his blessing and Laila knows it, too. But Babi has said that Laila is all he has and if she leaves with Tariq, it will shatter him. Tariq continues to beg her to marry him, even though he knows that her obligations are no less important than his. He tells her finally that he loves her, and Laila thinks how ironic it is that just as he finally says the words she has longed to hear, he is going away, and she cannot go with him. In the end, she forces him to leave. She bolts the door closed to him while he pounds on it outside and begs her again to come. Finally, he gives up, promising that he will come back for her someday.


This is one of the most touching chapters of the book. Tariq is leaving and in their agony of knowing they are now to be parted, he and Laila seal their love with their bodies and their words. Nevertheless, they know that they each have responsibilities that will keep them apart, perhaps forever.

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