Ayesha is a seemingly well-adjusted middle-aged woman whose life centers around her son Saleem - a gentle, dreamy 18 year old, in love with Zubeida. They live in the village of Charkhi, in Pakistani Punjab. Ayesha's husband is dead and she manages a living from his pension and by giving Quran lessons to young girls.
The story begins in 1979, in a Pakistan under President General Zia-ul-Haq's martial law. In a few months the country will become a state ruled by Islamic law. Saleem becomes intensely involved with a group of Islamic fundamentalists and leaves Zubeida.
Ayesha is saddened to see her son change radically. Events escalate when Sikh pilgrims from India pour into the village. Later, a pilgrim looks for his sister Veero who was abducted in 1947. This awakens heart-rending memories?