Summary and Analysis
Chapter 35 - Mariam
Laila and Mariam share in household tasks and the care for Aziza. Aziza grows supremely fond of Mariam, greeting her ecstatically every morning. It's now January 1994 and the political climate has only gotten worse. The violence increases so much that Rasheed is forced to stay home from work for several days. As Rasheed paces the living room with his gun in his hand, Mariam and Laila long for him to go back to work as they're riddled with anxiety when he's around.
A few days later, Laila offers to braid Mariam's hair. As Laila works on her hair, Mariam tells Laila about the events leading up to her marriage to Rasheed. Laila absorbs the older woman's story and then tells her own story of her relationship with Tariq — and her plans to flee from Rasheed. She asks Mariam to join her. Mariam is terrified but thrilled by the idea of escape, and surprised at herself for thinking about her future in a positive light for the first time in years.
By contrasting Mariam and Laila's days when Rasheed is at home and when he is not, Hosseini demonstrates the distance between Rasheed and his wives, and the strong bond growing between the women. The chapter opens with scenes of Mariam and Laila's sharing of housework. They now wash clothes together and take care of Aziza together — Aziza loves Mariam like a second mother. These quiet days of housework and parenting are interrupted when Rasheed stays home from work. He shoots his gun into the street and nearly steps on the crawling Aziza. His presence serves to not only disrupt the women's routine, but also as a counterpoint to it: they're much happier without him than with him.
The stark contrast between Mariam and Laila's relationship and either woman's relationship to Rasheed is further highlighted in the hair-braiding scene. During this scene, both women strip away any of their remaining secrets. Mariam shares her troubled history; Laila confesses not only Aziza's true father, but also her plan to escape. Through this moment of intimacy, the women unite fully against Rasheed and begin to envision a different life, without him.