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

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A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS: DOWNLOADABLE STUDY GUIDE

CHAPTER 26

Summary

It is by far the hottest day of the year in Kabul, but the electricity is out and the fans don’t work. Laila lies on the living room couch trying not to move in the heat while upstairs she can hear her parents talking and talking like they have everyday now ever since the bullet struck the gate. Inside Laila is a battle that is also waging, one of guilt on one part, along with shame, and on the other, the conviction that what she and Tariq had done was not sinful given the knowledge that they might not see each other again. Now she lies lost in her memories of that moment when they had made love, trying to remember exactly what Tariq had said at one point. It has only been two weeks since he has left, but already time is blunting the edges of those sharp memories. With the passing of time, she will slowly tire of this exercise; there will come day when she will no longer bewail his loss, when the details with slip from her memory, when she will not miss him as she does now like the phantom pain of an amputee. Except, every once in a while, when she is a grown woman, pushing her child on a swing set, something trivial like the warmth of the carpet beneath her feet, and it will all come rushing back, flood her, and steal her breath.

Then, Babi interrupts her pain and calls her upstairs to tell her excitedly that Mammy has finally agreed to leave Kabul. They will go to Pakistan first and Laila can’t help but think that there, they will find Tariq. Then, maybe as Babi has always said, they will move to a place near the sea. Mammy has finally changed her mind after Babi points out to her that the bullet that lodged in the gate had missed Laila by only an inch and that they have already given two of their children to Afghanistan. Mammy’s eyes bounce guiltily around the pictures of her sons on the wall, but she also has a look of concession and resignation.

That night, Laila dreams that she and Tariq are lying on a quilt on the beach, with identical wedding bands on their fingers, while all around them are the sound of gulls, the surf, and another sound like a chant. The chant reminds her of how Babi had once told her that sands actually sing - the friction of grain against grain. They listen to it intently.

Babi tells them they should only take what is necessary. The rest they will sell. So, they each begin to gather all those things they have accumulated to pile up downstairs to sell. At one point, Mammy brings down her wedding gown to sell. When Laila questions why she is selling it, her mother throws it brusquely on the sell pile, like ripping off a band-aid all in one stroke. However, it is Babi who has the most painful task. He must reduce his books to the very few they can carry. He is wearing his San Francisco tee-shirt, showing the red of the famous bay bridge poking though the fog that surrounds it. While he tries to choose five of his favorite books, he reminisces with Laila about Kabul where he has spent his entire life. All day two lines of a poem by Saib-e-Tabrizi, about the city have been bouncing around in his head, “One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs, / Or the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls.” When Laila looks up at him, he is weeping.


Laila begins the sweaty job of bringing box after box of items to be sold outside to be taken away in a taxi. She becomes even more energetic the more she brings outside, because she knows that this brings her even closer to Tariq. She hears a voice, Mammy’s, say that they are going to need a big taxi. Laila sees her in her cobalt blue dress leaning out the window upstairs and wonders where the radiant creature with the plump, smiling face in her wedding photo has gone. Laila calls up that they will call two big taxis. Mammy then tells her to come upstairs when she is finished with the piles in her arms, and they will have lunch. Just then, Laila is suddenly reminded once more of her dream of the singing sands. The chanting is all around until she realizes that it’s more of a whistling. She drops the books in her arms and looks up to the sky. Then, there is a giant roar and flash of white. Something hot and powerful slams into her from behind, and she strikes the wall. The last thing she is aware of is a bloody chunk of something with the tip of a red bridge poking through the fog that surrounds it.

A woman’s face appears then above Laila’s with a fluorescent light behind it. It fades away to black. Later, there is a man’s face, his features broad and droopy. She cannot hear him even though his lips move. A pink pill sends her back to darkness. The woman appears again, her face long, her eyes narrow-set. Everything hurts. She wonders where Tariq is. There is darkness and a flock of stars. Then, she is with Babi somewhere up high and he is pointing to a field of barley. Only the pink pill brings a cease of the pain and the deep hush that falls over everything.

Notes

This entire chapter is ironic. Just as Babi convinces Mammy to leave Kabul and Lalila believes it’s possible to find Tariq again, the missile that luck has kept away up to this moment finds them and kills Babi and Mammy. Laila is alone.


PART III

CHAPTER 27: Mariam

Summary

Slowly, Laila awakens, but when Rasheed and Mariam ask her if she knows who they are, she tells them that she can’t hear from one ear. At first, she sleeps most of the time even though she has awakened from her unconscious state. While she sleeping, Mariam notes how she cries out strange names, weeps, grows agitated to the point of having to be held down. And she retches and retches, throwing up everything Mariam has fed her. Some days she is childlike, refusing to eat or take medicine. Then, only after long bouts of resistance, would she surrender to even longer bouts of weeping. Mariam asks Rasheed how long she is staying and he says until she is better and calls her poor thing. He also brings her new blankets and a pillow as well as a bottle of vitiamins. He even salvages a handful of Babi’s books from the pile of rubble that was their house. He tells Laila all about how he had found her under the rubble and brought her to his house with a scrap of metal embedded in her shoulder. He tells her that Tariq’s house is now occupied by three of Sayyef’s commanders. They are actually three boys who notice Laila after she is able to get up and walk outside. One looks at her in such a way that his arrogance falls away and she catches a glint of humanity. Later, a missile hits this house as well and the neighbors then keep finding bits and pieces of the boys. Rasheed only says they had it coming.

Mariam thinks that it was extraordinary luck that Laila escaped with just minor injuries, considering that the missile had turned her house to smoke. Laila tells Mariam one day that she shouldn’t even be there. Babi had wanted to take the books downstairs, saying they were too heavy for her, but she was so excited about leaving that she insisted and ended up being outside when the missile hit. Mariam finds herself unable to think of anything she can say to ease Laila’s burden. However, she doesn’t need to worry, because the memory makes Laila retch again and Mariam must rush to clean her floors once more.

Then, one day man named Abdul Sharif comes to the door and asks for Laila. She doesn’t even know him, but Mariam insists that the young girl come down and talk to this man.

Notes

This chapter is basically an explanation of how Laila slowly begins to heal physically from her wounds after the missile even though her psychologically wounds will take much longer to heal. It is interesting to note how solicitous the cruel Rasheed behaves to her.


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