Mammy didn't understand. She didn't understand that if she looked into a mirror, she would find the one unfailing conviction of [Babi's] life looking right back at her. (2.21.59)
Mammy and Babi have a difficult relationship, and Mammy blames him for the death of Ahmad and Noor. But it's Babi's unflinching devotion to Mammy that ultimately shines through. There's no doubt that this love makes an impact on Laila and how she views family.
"Do you have it in you?" Laila said. "To what?" "To use this thing. To kill with it." […] "For you," he said. "I'd kill with it for you, Laila." (2.25.19-22)
While it may make you feel icky to think about it, this is a pretty powerful thing to say to someone else, and, in a way, a pure expression of what it can mean to love. Laila agrees—this statement sparks the first kiss between Laila and Tariq.
She would not miss him as she did now, when the ache of his absence was her unremitting companion—like the phantom pain of an amputee. (2.26.11)
The image of "the phantom pain of an amputee" is an obvious play on Tariq's lost leg, but it also provides a great metaphor for being away from someone you love. Laila and Tariq are so bonded that Laila sees them, to some extent, as the same person.
As soon as she was in Mariam's arms, Aziza's thumb shot into her mouth and she buried her face in Mariam's neck. […] Mariam had never before been wanted like this. Love had never been declared to her so guilelessly, so unreserved. (3.35.5-6)
Hold on—keep reading just a little bit longer before you start looking up cute baby videos on YouTube. Before this moment, Mariam had never experienced unconditional love from someone else. But Aziza is innocent and pure—and she doesn't care that Mariam is a harami. This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
[Mariam] thought of her entry into this world, the harami child of a lowly villager […] A weed. And yet she was leaving the world as a woman who had loved and been loved back. (3.47.62)
Mariam has had a tough life. She's been beaten, abused, mistreated, and taken advantage of. Yet she isn't filled with rage at the end. Instead, she feels joy simply for having the opportunity to connect with other people.
Laila crawled to her and again put her head on Mariam's lap. She remembered all the afternoons they'd spent together, braiding each other's hair, Mariam listening patiently to her random thought and ordinary stories with an air of gratitude, with the expression of a person to whom a unique and coveted privilege had been extended. (3.46.71)
This heartbreaking moment underscores the maternal relationship between Mariam and Laila. The love between the two women flourishes once they develop a deep, mother-daughter relationship with each other.
Somehow, over these last months, Laila and Aziza—a harami [illegitimate child] like herself, as it turned out—had become extensions of her and now, without them, the life Mariam had tolerated for so long suddenly seemed intolerable. (3.35.27)
Here, we see the transformative power of love. Laila has just told Mariam that she wants Mariam to escape with her, and Mariam is mulling over her decision. Mariam has been with Rasheed for so long, but Laila and Aziza have opened her up to a whole new way to experience life.
The past held only this wisdom: that love was a damaging mistake, and its accomplice, hope, a treacherous illusion. And whenever those twin poisonous flowers began to sprout in the parched land of that field, Mariam uprooted them. (3.35.26)
Now we see why Mariam is so unhappy. She has loved plenty of people during her life: Jalil, Mullah Faizullah, even Nana. But she always ends up disappointed. Like Pavlov's dog, Mariam has been conditioned to expect rejection whenever she experiences love.
Mariam is never very far […] mostly, Mariam is in Laila's own heart, where she shines with the bursting radiance of a thousand suns. (4.51.37)
This right here—cue killer guitar riff—is the power of love. While the love between Mariam and Laila is small in scale, it ends up having an effect on a great number of people. Mariam's love inspires Laila to do great things and to pay that love forward to those in need.
Most times, Laila and Tariq make love in silence, with controlled muted passion […] But for Laila, being with Tariq is worth weathering these apprehensions. When they make love, Laila feels anchored, she feels sheltered. (4.49.26)
Here's a game: go back and compare this scene to Laila's wedding night with Rasheed. Both scenes reveal a lot about the men in question and the way they express love. Here, we see that Tariq actually makes Laila feel happy. Fancy that.