Laila stays upstairs most days and avoids Mariam. In turn, Mariam also avoids Laila. Rasheed demands that they all eat together, and he forces conversation. Rasheed reveals to Laila that Mariam is a harami and compares her to a trusty Volga automobile. However, Rasheed equates Mariam to a Mercedes Benz - one that requires special care. Rasheed tells Laila not to leave the house without him and to wear a burqa when she does leave.
Laila tries to make conversation with Mariam, and she seems specifically interested in discussing the demands which Rasheed has placed on her. However, Mariam only speaks to Laila out of the neccessity to divide up the household chores. Mariam tells Laila that she does not want Laila's company. Laila apologizes, and Mariam tells her that she should be sorry.
Laila recalls hearing how Rasheed's son had drowned while Rasheed was drunk, which may concern her, as he will be raising her child. When Laila tells Rasheed that she is pregnant, Rasheed begins to pray for a boy. He also begins to hold Laila on an even higher pedestal than he did before. Mariam informs Laila that her pregnancy does not excuse her from doing chores. Laila is upset by her living situation in Rasheed's house, but she knows she has little choice.
In the war, Hazaras are fighting Massoud, but Sayyaf is fighting the Hazaras. Massoud is fighting Hekmatyar who supports the Hazaras. Kabul continues to be fraught with destruction due to the conflict.
Laila becomes nostalgic for her childhood and for Tariq. She has fallen into a daily routine of doing her chores. Rasheed takes Laila to visit his shop, a privilege which Mariam has not had. Laila and Mariam have a big fight that begins over a missing spoon. The fight is a cathartic release of both of their feelings of sadness and aggravation. Ultimately there is angry name calling, but Laila feels good about the fight afterwards, and thinks that Mariam probably did too.
Laila has her baby- a girl named Aziza. Rasheed cannot stand the smells and sounds of the baby, and has no affection for her. Rasheed tries to have sex with Laila before the six weeks after-birth that during which the doctor had ordered Laila to abstain. Laila refuses, and Rasheed gets angry.
Rasheed asks Mariam to help with the baby, but Mariam says she knows nothing about babies. Laila's life soon becomes consumed by cycles of washing, feeding, and changing Aziza. Laila is fascinated by her. Rasheed tells Laila not to get too attached, because one out of every four or five children die before the age of five in Afghanistan.
Rasheed blames Mariam for Laila withholding sex. He comes into her room and beats her, but Laila physically stops him. That night, Mariam goes into the kitchen and sees Laila and Aziza lying on the floor. Laila is asleep, but Aziza is awake and about to cry. Mariam takes care of her and allows her to hold Mariam's finger while she falls asleep.
Laila would whisper to Aziza about Tariq. Rasheed sometimes refers to Aziza being Tariq's daughter in a sort of sideways manner. Laila just acts as though she didn't understand his implications. Rasheed questions Laila's prior behavior with Tariq, implying something inappropriate had occurred. Rasheed says that if Tariq was alive he would kill him.
Since Laila was fed up with her living situation in Rasheed's home, she begins to rebel. Laila has been stealing money from Rasheed since Aziza was born, and she hid the money away. She is planning to run away with Aziza in the Spring.
Aziza has been dressed in boy clothes that Rasheed had bought prior to Aziza's birth. However, one morning, Laila finds dresses outside of her door- put there by Mariam. Laila thanks Mariam for the clothes, and Mariam says that she had them already, but had no use for them. She tells Laila that she had sewed the clothes during her first pregnancy. Mariam brings up the night that Laila stood up to Rasheed in order to stop him from hurting her. Mariam says that no one had stood up for her before, and that Laila should get used to this type of treatment in Rasheed's house. Laila and Mariam have a cup of tea together and made peace. Laila and Mariam start doing their chores together and begin to enjoy each other's company. Aziza begins to grow fond of Mariam, though Mariam is confused as to why.
Rasheed correctly predicts that the Uzbek Dostum will ally with Hekmatyar to fight against Massoud. This causes the war to escalate. The streets of Kabul become even more dangerous. Women begin to kill themselves out of fear, and rape victims are killed by their families in order to retain honor. Mariam wonders if it was as dangerous in Herat, and she hopes that Jalil was safe. The Mujahideen begin using torture tactics to force young boys to join.
Rasheed has to stay home from work during one particularly violent week, but then fighting subsides.
Mariam tells Laila about her past, and Laila reveals to Mariam that she is planning to run away in the Spring. She asks Mariam to come along.
Mariam's initial chafing with Laila can be expected, as Mariam's only role in life was as a wife to Rasheed. Even though Rasheed abused Mariam, once Laila was brought into the house, her identity as Rasheed's wife was fundamentally threatened. Indeed, Once Laila is revealed as pregnant, Mariam feels like even less of a wife, and less of a woman, than Laila. Rasheed's continued exalting of Laila, moreover, does not help Mariam's self-confidence.
Laila and Mariam's first big fight over the spoon serves as a catharsis for the two of them to release their anger. They can finally yell and scream and curse, as they both had probably been wishing to do for a while. The fight offers a release of pent-up anger and frustration toward Rasheed, but also about their unfortunate situations in general. Though the words may have been directed towards an undeserving party, the fight appears to serve as a device to bring Laila and Mariam closer together.
Laila and Mariam finally become civil, even though it is through the unfortunate event of Rasheed’s violence. Laila's strength allows her to act on behalf of Mariam, in Mariam's best interest. This act is unlike any other that Mariam had experienced in her life thus far. Though characters have spoken for her, they never did so with her interests in mind, except for maybe Mullah Faizullah. The bond that Mariam and Laila form is new to the novel, one that is more than friendship, like a familial bond of two adult women.
Hosseini uses Rasheed's comment to Laila about not attaching herself to Aziza to allude to the high mortality rate of young Afghan children, which implies the tragic health conditions in Afghanistan. Though poverty is strewn throughout the novel, there are rare points in which Hosseini offers such jarring comparisons between the western world and Afghanistan. The mortality statistic provides context for the story.
The uprising of the Mujihadeen begins to affect the day to day life of the novel’s central characters. With Rasheed home during the day, the family will be affected both emotionally and financially. Mariam and Laila's escape plan again brings a glimmer of hope to the lives of these women. The plan will clearly be affected by whatever political rule surrounds them, due to consistently changing laws and social norms. Indeed, the value (or lack of value) of women is emphasized when Rasheed is clearly disgusted by Aziza. His disdain of Aziza distinctly contrasts with his excitement and joy in hoping and praying for a male. However, Laila's relationship with Aziza shows not only true maternal love, but also her indelibly fond memories of Tariq.