We return to Kabul in the spring of 1987, now following Laila, Fariba's daughter, instead of Mariam.
A nine-year old Laila wakes up in a grumpy mood because her best friend Tariq is gone on a thirteen-day trip with his parents. Laila and Tariq are inseparable, and Laila is only five days into a torturous two weeks.
As usual, Laila's parents spend the whole morning arguing while she gets ready for school. There's been tension between the two since Laila's father, Babi, let her brothers Ahmad and Noor go to war against the communists. Mammy, Laila's mother, has been resentful ever since.
Laila heads off to school and notices a fancy Mercedes-Benz in front of Rasheed's house. Who could that be?
After school, Laila heads home with her two friends, Giti and Hasina. Laila walks the last few blocks alone, but she's stopped when someone comes up behind her and puts a gun to her face.
It's Khadim, one of Laila's classmates, and although it's just a squirt gun that he's holding, his aggression frightens Laila. He mocks her about Tariq and then sprays her with an awful-smelling liquid.
After returning home, Laila cleans up and visits Mammy in her room. Mammy has been holed up in bed all afternoon, as usual, and she's non-responsive even after Laila tells her what happened.
Wait, what happened? Uhh… well, folks, the liquid that Khadim sprayed on Laila was urine. That's TMI, Mr. Hosseini.
Tariq doesn't come back after the thirteen days are up. In fact, he doesn't return for several weeks. Laila gets more anxious by the day, but she's ecstatic when she looks out the window to see a flashlight beaming toward her from Tariq's window.
Laila rushes over to Tariq's house the next morning and greets Tariq and his family. Laila and Tariq have fun together, telling riddles and making jokes, until Laila tells Tariq about what happened with Khadim and the squirt gun.
Furious, Tariq goes and confronts Khadim, taking off his prosthetic leg (as a child, he lost one of his legs to a landmine) and beating Khadim down John Cena style.
Later that day, Laila is eating dinner with her family when a knock at the door interrupts their meal.
The man at the door is a comrade of Ahmad and Noor. He announces that the two brothers have died in battle.
Much of the town is at the funeral the following day, including Giti, Tariq, and Mariam. Mammy refuses to speak to Babi.
Laila is upset about her brothers, but she feels grateful that her "true brother" Tariq is alive and well (2.19.25).
Mammy is even worse after the funeral. She's sick all of the time, refusing to leave the bed except to pray.
One night, as Laila spends time with her mother, Mammy confesses that she hasn't been a good mother to Laila. Then she says that although her sons are dead, she still holds out hope for a free Afghanistan. She eventually falls asleep, leaving Laila to stew in her thoughts.
Laila, Tariq, and Babi are taking a day trip to the famous Bamiyan Buddhas. On the way over, Babi and the driver talk about the history of imperialism in Afghanistan.
They climb to the top of the statues. As Tariq explores, Laila and Babi daydream about leaving the chaos of Afghanistan for the United States. Both of them know that Mammy would never want to leave the country, so the conversation ends.
Jump forward six months to April 1988. News has just come in that the communists are relinquishing power, leaving a puppet government in its place.
A year later, eleven-year-old Laila, with her family and friends, is watching the last of the Soviet forces leaving Kabul.
After returning to the city, Laila and Tariq go to see a dubbed Russian movie at the local theater. They make fun of the movie so much that you'd think they were auditioning for Mystery Science Theater 3000.
At one point during the film, however, two characters share a passionate kiss. Laila feels butterflies in her stomach, and she can't help but notice that Tariq is squirming in his seat, too.
The year is now 1992. Much has happened in the meantime: Hasina has left Kabul to be married, Tariq's father has fallen ill, and the Soviet Union has collapsed altogether.
In April, the Soviet-supported puppet government falls to the Mujahideen rebels. Their victory wakes Mammy from her slumber.
Mammy rises from bed early, rearranges the kitchen, and begins cooking right away. Mammy's got a brand new bag. She's not alone—the entire city spends the next day partying.
At some point during the night, Tariq motions to Laila to meet him in a more private area. She finds him smoking a cigarette in an alley, which she's never seen him do before.
Laila gets jealous of the attention Tariq has been receiving from other girls, but he tells her that he doesn't care about any girl but her.
Before Laila can respond, they hear a commotion from the party and run back.
A fight has broken out. Tensions between the different ethnic groups have come to a head, and an argument between several partygoers escalates into a full-blown brawl.
A larger version of this conflict is happening within the Mujahideen itself, causing the many different individual groups within the alliance to go at odds with each other. Now, although the Soviets are gone, the Mujahideen is preparing for yet another war—this time with itself.
War has broken out again, and the sound of bombs and gunfire is ever-present in Kabul.
Things have gotten so bad that Laila won't walk out on the streets without the company of Tariq.
One day, Tariq tells Laila that he bought a gun so that he can protect her. The two share their first kiss in the front yard of Laila's house.
Eventually the fighting gets so bad that Babi decides to homeschool Laila.
The family's fears are realized when Giti is struck and killed by a rocket on her way home from school. Laila has a powerful emotional reaction at Giti's funeral.
Later that year, Tariq tells Laila that he is leaving for Pakistan with his family. She begins to weep, and Tariq consoles her, which leads to them making love.
Afterward, Tariq begs Laila to marry him and come with him to Pakistan. Laila wants to, but she couldn't bear to leave Babi alone with Mammy, who has gone back to her depressive ways now that the Mujahideen has fallen apart.
Laila and Tariq part ways, and Tariq promises Laila that he'll come back for her.
Laila constantly daydreams about Tariq and the last day they spent together.
The unthinkable has happened: Mammy's agreed to leave Afghanistan. She had a change of heart when a bullet nearly hit Laila while she was standing in their front yard one day.
Now it's the day when the family is supposed to leave Afghanistan. Laila is outside loading luggage into a car while Babi and Mammy remain inside, packing.
Laila suddenly hears a whistling, followed by an explosion. A stray rocket has hit the house, killing Babi and Mammy. Laila is knocked out. She survives somehow, and in her delirium she sees two figures caring for her.