Laila is the novel’s other protagonist. Laila is the daughter of an educator and was raised during a more progressive time in Afghanistan. Many of her formative years play out against the backdrop of the growing violence in Kabul. The novel sees her growing up in the face of extremely difficult and violent circumstances.
Laila is quickly established as coming from a very different background than Mariam. She values her schooling and has a more egalitarian view on justice, especially between the genders. Often daydreaming of a life filled with beauty and love, the young Laila is portrayed as idealistic and a bit of a romantic. She displays a boldness that is uncharacteristic for women of the time. Shame is unable to root inside of Laila, as evidenced by her having sex with Tariq despite it being socially taboo. Laila is expected to surpass the convention of marrying young that her peers are beholden to. Both her peers and her family think she will become a prominent and independent woman.
Laila’s marriage to Rasheed provides the catalyst for Laila’s growth from child to woman. During her marriage to Rasheed, she comes to sacrifice her well-being for the well-being of Mariam, Aziza, and Zalmai. In contrast to Mariam, Laila is horrified by the oppressive rulership Afghanistan continuously falls under, voicing her grievances out loud. Living through such difficult circumstances makes Laila resilient and brave. Her experience of war and the birth of her children turn Laila into a mature adult who is able to balance feeling indebted to Mariam with a willful desire to rebuild the country that she loves. The one thing Laila carries with her throughout the novel is her idealism, which allows her to believe in a better future.