Before and during the harsh reign of the taliban, is the setting of this book. It is a place of political and religious unrest. How does this reality affect the daily lives of people there especially women?
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The women in the novel often work to retain hope while dealing with the realities of political and personal oppression. At significant points throughout the novel, characters express their individual hopes. For instance, when Mariam asks Mullah Faizullah if she may attend school, her journey of hope begins. For Laila, hope lies in Tariq and an attempted escape from Rasheed. Most characters walk into such events with high levels of hope for the future, but once reality sets in, a character's hope is crushed. Not only do these waves of hope provide the reader with suspense and emotional attachment to the characters, but this cycle appears to reflect the cycles of hope and dashed dreams that Afghan women suffer, time and time again. The personal stories of hope, moreover, are mirrored in the political hope of the Afghan citizens. With every new ruler, people express their convictions that finally Afghanistan will be free. Yet, similar to the personal hope of individuals, Afghanistan’s hope often turns to despair after the realities of each new regime leave the nation unfree.