The freedoms and opportunities that women had enjoyed between 1978 and 1992 were a thing of the past now–Laila could still remember Babi saying of those years of communist rule, It’s a good time to be a woman in Afghanistan, Laila. Since the Mujahideen takeover in April 1992, Afghanistan’s name had been changed to the Islamic State of Afghanistan.

This quote appears in Chapter 36 as Laila and Mariam are trying to escape from Kabul. Their plan is risky as it is, and the political state does not make it any easier. Laila contrasts her current reality to a past that was, according to Babi, filled with opportunity. These changes directly influence the way Laila and Mariam must make their escape, which includes finding a man to escort them. Had this occurred in the Afghanistan Babi talked about, they wouldn’t be in their unfortunate situation in the first place. This is one example of how Laila evokes her father’s vision of Afghanistan during difficult times.

Rasheed laughed. Mariam heard the answer in his laugh: that in the eyes of the Taliban, being a communist and the leader of the dreaded KHAD made Najibullah only slightly more contemptible than a woman.

As Rasheed and Mariam discuss new political updates in Chapter 37, an astute connection is made between Rasheed’s political beliefs and those that are growing in popularity at this point in the novel. Rasheed’s laughter signifies that he agrees with the Taliban, who have just begun enforcing oppressive Shari’a laws, many of which are aimed at controlling women. While the Taliban is not killing women outright, the laws show they still find women “contemptible,” and they need to be controlled.

Laila is not as forgiving. Massoud’s violent end brings her no joy, but she remembers too well the neighborhoods razed under his watch, the bodies dragged from the rubble, the hands and feet of children discovered on rooftops or the high branch of some tree days after their funeral.

In Chapter 49, Laila reflects on the atrocities she lived through upon hearing of Massoud’s death. This quote brings a kind of reckoning to Laila, one where she realizes that so much of the violence endured in Kabul stemmed from power-hungry men. The imagery used by the author is stark to highlight the civilian lives lost and the tragedies of war. The political unrest that gripped Afghanistan during Laila’s formative years had the real cost of human lives. However, Laila is mature enough now, perhaps even a bit far removed from what she has gone through, to show some level of understanding toward the man who has indirectly caused her so much anguish.