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Mariam grows up in a small shack outside of the city of Herat. She was brought up to know her place in society as a 'harami,' or bastard child. She is a strong girl who questions authority and dreams of bigger things for herself - far beyond what she finds within the walls of her small shack. Though she is raised by Nana, her mother, she is very fond of her estranged father, Jalil. After falling into deep despair following her mother's death, Mariam is abandoned by Jalil, who marries her off to Rasheed, despite her attempts to remain single. Her childless marriage to Rasheed eventually forces her into a life of submission and misery until close to the end of her life, when Laila provides her with some hope. At the end of the novel, Mariam rises up in revenge and strikes Rasheed dead. She ultimately is tried and executed by the Taliban for her actions.