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

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A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS: ONLINE BOOK REVIEW

CHAPTER 32: Laila

Summary

Laila remembers a gathering years before when Mammy was having one of her good days. Wajma, a neighbor woman, had been gossiping about Rasheed. She asked the other women if they knew how Rasheed’s son had died. When most said they knew the boy had drowned, Wajma went on to say that Rasheed had crying drunk that day and that the boy had gone into the water unnoticed. She said, “That is why the Holy Koran forbids Sharab. Because it always falls on the sober to pay for the sins of the drunk.” It is this story circling in Laila’s head after she tells Rasheed about the baby. He immediately hops on his bicycle, rides to the mosque, and prays for a boy. Then, she is there when he springs the news on Mariam in a high, dramatic voice and with such cheerful cruelty. As for Mariam’s reaction, she wonders if Laila werer a Benz before, what is she now? She reminds Laila that her pregnancy doesn’t excuse her from chore. To keep herself from lashing out at Mariam, Laila reminds herself that Mariam and the baby are the only innocent parties in all of this. Later in bed, it makes her burst into tears, and Rasheed immediately assumes Mariam has done something to her. However, Laila screams that she’s only ever been decent to her.

Soon, winter arrives while Rasheed keeps bringing home news of the war. Laila can’t keep track of all the allegiances that Rasheed tries to explain. Kabul burns and black palls of smoke hang above the city. That winter, everywhere Laila turns, she is blocked by walls. She thinks longingly of the wide-open skies of her childhood, but she doesn’t think of Tariq, because thoughts of him are treacherous. She passes the time sweeping, scrubbing walls, and washing clothes. She feels lost, casting about, like a shipwreck survivor, no shore in sight, only miles and miles of water. As for Mariam, there is only a hurtful silence and wordless hostility.

Rasheed takes Laila to his shop one day, and like Mariam, years before her, she takes some comfort from the anonymity the burqa provides. He asks her how things are with Mariam. She says fine and doesn’t tell him that they had had their first true fight. Mariam had accused Laila of taking her favorite wooden spoon from the kitchen. Laila responds that Mariam had perhaps misplaced it. When Mariam refused to accept this idea, Laila called her a sad, miserable woman. Other terrible names were flung back and forth between them and Laila realized she liked standing up for herself this way. Of course, it also occurred to her that Mariam may have liked it as well. She had run upstairs and thrown herself on Rasheed’s bed where she was overwhelmed by the sudden ached of missing her parents. Just as it appeared that she couldn’t take the thoughts any longer, she caught herself around the belly. The baby had just kicked for the first time.


Notes

This chapter explores the growing animosity between Mariam and Laila as well as Laila’s despair for her loss of freedom and family. However, it ends on a good notes with the first kicks of the baby in Laila’s belly.


CHAPTER 33: Mariam

Summary

Early in the spring of 1993, Mariam stands by the living room window as Rasheed gently escorts Laila out of the house. She is in labor, and he is ever so gentle with her, calling her his flower. They come back early the next evening. This time, Rasheed enters the gate first and allows it to close prematurely, almost hitting the girl in the face. There is a shadow on his own face, and he tells Mariam brusquely to get dinner ready. Meanwhile, Laila struggles to get in the door with the swaddled bundle and the paper bag of her belongings. However, Mariam just moves off into the kitchen to prepare the meal.

It is soon apparent to the reader why Rasheed has become as mean to Laila as he has been to Mariam: the new baby is a girl. Laila has named her Aziza, the Cherished One, but Rasheed only calls her the baby, or that thing. Also night after night, they argue over the baby, and whether they can continue their love life. Rasheed pushes while Laila pushes back. Rasheed even goes to Mariam and asks for her help in convincing Lalila to make love.

Mariam watches from the sidelines as the girl’s days become consumed with cycle of rocking, bouncing, feeding, and walking. Laila is forced to dress Aziza in boy’s clothes, because that is what Rasheed had bought before the birth, and he won’t buy more now. Mariam finds it exhausting to watch the girl with her baby, and yet to a degree, she admires her. She also notices that Rasheed has no patience for Lalila any more. “The strange thing is, the girl’s fall from grace ought to have pleased Mariam, bring her a sense of vindication. But it doesn’t. It doesn’t. To her own surprise, Mariam finds herself pitying the girl.” Rasheed is also verbally cruel to Laila, telling her not to get attached to Aziza as the government of Afghanistan is saying that one out of four children will die before the age of five. This of course leads to bickering between Lalila and Rasheed which escalates when Laila refuses to have sex with Rasheed. One night when Laila refuses him again, Rasheed grabs his belt and heads for Mariam’s room. He accuses her of teaching Laila to deny him, He raises the belt while, like all the other times he has beaten her, Mariam is frozen with her fear. Laila bursts into the room and grabs his arm, begging him to stop. She hangs on to his arm and finally tells him he wins, and she’ll give in. Mariam then knows there will be no beating this night. He has made his point and leaves the room with the warning that he is on to their plot, and he won’t be made a fool in his own home.

Three times that night Mariam is awakened from sleep. One is the falling of rockets. The second is the crying of the baby. The last is her need for a drink of water. She goes downstairs to the kitchen where she nearly trips over Lalila lying on a quilt with the baby beside her. The baby is awake, and she seems to be examining Mariam as much as Mariam is examining her. The little girl squeals happily when Mariam leans toward her, and the older woman knows that a favorable judgment has been passed on her behalf. The baby grabs Mariam’s pinky and begins to coo at her. Mariam asks her what she’s so happy about given that she has a brute for a father and a fool for a mother. She bends down and allows Aziza to hold onto her hand until she closes her eyes and falls asleep. “Outside mockingbirds are slinging blithely, and once in a while, when songsters take flight, Mariam can see their wings catching the phosphorescent blue of moonlight beaming through the clouds. And though her throat is parched with thirst, and her feet burn with the pain of pins and needles, it is a long time before Mariam gently frees her finger from the baby’s grip and gets up.”

Notes

This chapter shows how Laila is becoming attached enough to Mariam to give into sex with Rasheed and then later, how Mariam becomes so attached to Aziza that she sits in a most uncomfortable position until the tiny baby falls asleep.


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