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He blames her for the miscarriages and for undercooking the rice.After Rasheed marries his second wife, Laila, he blames Laila for giving birth to a girl.Mariam was an illegitimate child, forced into marriage by her father; Laila’s father adored her and encouraged his daughter to reach her full potential.
Mariam has only known the abuse of her older husband, while Laila had the chance to experience true love with Tariq.
Notwithstanding their differences and the circumstances that bring them together as a family, the two women are destined to become close friends.
Arranged marriage is common, but the mullah at Mariam’s wedding makes it clear that she must give her explicit consent to the marriage.
The fact that Jalil’s daughters plan to go to university suggests that a university education for women is not uncommon among the middle and upper classes.
From Laila and particularly from Aziza, Mariam learns of the power of love.
Aziza loves her despite everything—despite her shame (being born out of wedlock) or her aging face.Under the Taliban, women are forbidden from attending school or working.As a result, nearly 90 percent of Afghan women today are illiterate.Mariam will be strengthened, and not diminished, by Laila’s entry into her home.Laila, too, will gain from her relationship with the older woman.Broken down by years of abuse in her marriage, Mariam has learned not to stand up for herself.Laila, on the other hand, speaks up and defends her co-wife when Rasheed strikes her.This awakens Mariam, teaching her that she can fight back.Towards the end of the novel, Mariam will defend Laila by killing Rasheed.Mariam and Rasheed’s observations of Kabul reveal that many women in the city forgo head coverings and dress in a modern style; they are shown working in offices and walking around the city alone.Under the communist government in Soviet-occupied Afghanistan, women enjoy the most freedoms.