After the funeral of both her sons, Fariba's mental and physical health continues to deteriorate. Fariba eats less and less and spends even less time maintaining the household. Laila picks up the slack, cleaning and cooking more often than she once did. Sometimes when she finishes her chores, Laila lies next to her mother. During these visits, Fariba often tells stories of Ahmed and Noor and , about how bright the boys' futures would have been. Finally, Fariba admits that she knows she's been a bad mother to Laila. After a few days of worrying, Laila asks her mother if she plans to kill herself. Fariba says no; she wants to live to see the day the Soviets are kicked out of Afghanistan since it would mean so much to her sons. Laila realizes that she is not enough of a reason for her mother to want to keep living. Hosseini uses metaphor in Chapter 20 to depict Laila's struggle to figure out the place she holds in
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