Mariam is the daughter of a wealthy married man and a servant. Her poverty and her status as a "harami", an illegitimate child, place her in a very lowly position in Afghanistan's culture. At fifteen, she is forced into a loveless marriage with the shoemaker Rasheed, a callous and selfish man. Rasheed eventually takes a second wife, Laila. While Mariam is initially jealous, she eventually develops a loving, sisterly bond with this woman. Laila marries Rasheed out of desperation after she is separated from her childhood sweetheart Tariq and loses her parents in the bombing of Kabul. The political upheavals in Afghanistan are seen over the course of several decades through the lens of how these changes affect the characters of the book.
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Best part of story, including ending:
The story is very moving, allowing readers to see how Afghanistan's culture affects the women of that country.
Best scene in story:
The scene where Laila visits the village where Mariam grew up portrays the strong love between the two women.
Opinion about the main character:
Mariam suffers a life of harsh limitations yet she retains her capacity for love.