A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
From Publisher’s Weekly:
Afghan-American novelist Hosseini follows up his bestselling The Kite Runner with another searing epic of Afghanistan in turmoil. The story covers three decades of anti-Soviet jihad, civil war and Taliban tyranny through the lives of two women. Mariam is the scorned illegitimate daughter of a wealthy businessman, forced at age 15 into marrying the 40-year-old Rasheed, who grows increasingly brutal as she fails to produce a child. Eighteen later, Rasheed takes another wife, 14-year-old Laila, a smart and spirited girl whose only other options, after her parents are killed by rocket fire, are prostitution or starvation. Against a backdrop of unending war, Mariam and Laila become allies in an asymmetrical battle with Rasheed, whose violent misogyny—”There was no cursing, no screaming, no pleading, no surprised yelps, only the systematic business of beating and being beaten”—is endorsed by custom and law. Hosseini gives a forceful but nuanced portrait of a patriarchal despotism where women are agonizingly dependent on fathers, husbands and especially sons, the bearing of male children being their sole path to social status. His tale is a powerful, harrowing depiction of Afghanistan, but also a lyrical evocation of the lives and enduring hopes of its resilient characters.
I think I may have found my new favorite author in Hosseini. I truly did not think he could write something as good as The Kite Runner the second time around, but wow he truly did. His style has not changed; the characters are deep and incredibly fleshed-out, and his prose is simple but perfect. I fell in love with this book from page 1 and pretty much couldn’t stop until the end. Miriam and Laila are both exceptional women, and as I was reading I could really feel their struggles and joys as if they were my own. I surmised real anger for Rasheed, their husband, and also for Jalil, Miriam’s father. Even through that anger, though, Hosseini managed to make both these despicable men seem human, and there were times when I felt for both of them as well. The book also traced Afghanistan’s history up til 2003 and it made me feel severely sad for the women there. I have to be honest; I’m not that good with international news and I really do not know what the current situation is in Afghanistan. I remember hearing maybe a year ago that the Taliban were sort of coming back to power, and thinking of that now just breaks my heart. I am inspired to learn more about that country, it’s people, and it’s government, because I feel incredible sadness knowing that women are treated this way and there is nothing that can be done to change it. I realize that in many countries, this is the norm for women, but it’s so incredibly heartbreaking, especially after reading this book and seeing that way of life through two women’s eyes in a personal matter (although it is fiction, obviously Hosseini is writing about a true sequence of historical events in a real country). I encourage everyone to pick up this book, it is a marvelous story and at this point, there is nothing I can say negative about it. I just truly loved A Thousand Splendid Suns.