Summary and Analysis
Chapter 46 - Laila
Laila watches the ceiling as Rasheed chokes her. Laila's vision narrows and wobbles, her children flash before her eyes, and then she hears Mariam asking her if she's all right. When she's recovered, Laila sits up and sees Rasheed's dead body on the floor and wails.
Once the gravity of what's happened has sunk in, Laila paces the floor, agitated by what Mariam's done. Mariam remains calm and contemplative and lets Laila get her jitters out. After some time has passed, Mariam tells Laila they must move the body so Zalmai will not see it. The two women wrap him in a sheet and drag him into the tool-shed. Returning to the house, Mariam paints a hopeful picture for Laila: they'll get Aziza and all run away with Tariq to Pakistan and start a new life. Mariam tells Laila she needs the night to form a plan and instructs her to go comfort her son.
In the morning, Laila finds Mariam in her room. Laila realizes that Mariam means to turn herself in. She begs and pleads with Mariam, but Mariam counters her emotional response with cold logic: if she runs, the Taliban will chase both of them, which would be the worst thing for the children. Mariam couldn't bear to watch Zalmai's grief. Laila weeps and lays her head in Mariam's lap, having nothing to offer as a counter-argument. Later, Mariam packs lunches for the children and Laila and Zalmai go to the orphanage to fetch Aziza. This is the last time Laila sees Mariam.
Through Mariam's sacrifice and Laila's acquiescence in Chapter 46, Hosseini suggests an ideal notion of motherhood: mothers always put their children ahead of all other matters. Mariam demonstrates her maternal nature in the aftermath of Rasheed's death. She attends to Laila's wounds and allows her time to recover from the shock of Rasheed's killing. Mariam encourages Laila to pull herself together long enough to drag Rasheed into the tool shed, then she eases Laila's mind with dreams of their new lives in Pakistan. Through these actions, Mariam accomplishes two motherly goals: one, she comforts her child; and two, she protects her daughter from feeling the full weight of what's happened. By pretending they can plan a future together and urging Laila to go to her son, Mariam shifts Laila's focus away from how much Mariam sacrificed for her. All of these actions show that Mariam is placing Laila and her children above concern for her own livelihood.
Laila's acceptance of Mariam's sacrifice also demonstrates her adherence to motherly ideals and her willingness to put her children ahead of her own concerns. Once Laila understands that Mariam intends to turn herself in, Laila becomes distraught. She urges Mariam to reconsider, but Mariam instructs her to "think like a mother." At this point, Laila realizes that in order to be a good mother to her children, she must go along with Mariam's plan — otherwise she risks putting them all in danger. By depicting the many sacrifices these women make for their children, Hosseini suggests that good mothers have are the necessary qualities for healing — not just for healing of familial relationships, but these qualities can heal Afghani society, as a whole.