If I had to pick one word to sum up this book: it would be powerful. I thought that The Kite Runner was an emotional roller coaster, A Thousand Splendid Suns leaves its predecessor in the dust. This book made me smile, it made me cry, and at times I became so violently angry over the cruel circumstances faced by the book’s heroines that I had to put it down for a while to calm myself. The story utterly destroyed me and shook me to my core. It is rare indeed for a book to make me feel such a wide variety of emotions.
A Thousand Splendid Suns is a beautiful historical fiction set to the backdrop in a war torn Afghanistan fresh off the fall of Najibullah’s government. The book takes us through the violent struggle between rival militias that eventually leads to the rise of the Taliban. The story follows first a young girl named Mariam, a bastard child forced with her abusive mother to live secluded in the countryside. Later she is forced into marriage with a much older man obsessed with having another son. The story then picks up with the birth of another young girl named Laila. The book continues to switch narratives between the two women until they are eventually brought together by circumstance. Together the girls face immeasurable hardship, vividly showing the dreadful reality for many women in the middle east.
“And 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. She uprooted them and ditched them before they took hold.”
The overall tone of the novel is intense, with the story taking many heart-wrenching turns. It opened my eyes to a part of the world that I had previously known little about. My childhood in the 1990’s was comfortable and safe, a far cry from the horrors faced by women and children during the same time period on the other side of the globe; it was like stepping into another world.
I’ve found that twice now, I liked the first half of Khaled Hosseini’s books better than the second half. The later plot lines usually seem a little far-fetched to me, but it doesn’t change the overall satisfaction I get from the book. The book covers the topics of the relationship between women, a perfect compliment to The Kite Runner‘s themes of relationships between men. This beautiful book is a masterpiece and the very best of Hosseini’s work. Be prepared to cry though, this one is hard on the emotions.
Title: A Thousand Splendid Suns
Author: Khaled Hosseini
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Publication Date: May 22, 2007
Born a generation apart and with very different ideas about love and family, Mariam and Laila are two women brought jarringly together by war, by loss and by fate. As they endure the ever escalating dangers around them—in their home as well as in the streets of Kabul—they come to form a bond that makes them both sisters and mother-daughter to each other, and that will ultimately alter the course not just of their own lives but of the next generation.