How is it that some writers can blend depth and simplicity, happiness and sorrow, and beauty and disgust all in one amazing tale? That is what Khaled Hosseini has done in A Thousand Splendid Suns.
The book is the story of 2 women. There is Mariam, an illegitimate daughter of her town’s most respected businessman. She lives in a hovel with her cynical and disillusioned mother.
There is Laila, the daughter of a forward-thinking schoolteacher and a mother who is vibrant and outgoing.
The book is divided into four parts. Part 1 is Mariam’s story, which is filled with hopes, determination, and years of emotional numbness after circumstances force her into a harsh marriage.
Part 2 is Laila’s story, which is filled with love, tenderness, loss and redemption. I don’t want to give anything away, so forgive my sketchy descriptions.
Part 3 is where these women’s lives meet, then intersect, then become entwined out of circumstance, necessity, and, ultimately, sacrifice.
Part 4 is where they part ways, each finding a new kind of peace and tranquility and even fulfillment. Although they part ways, they are still very much entwined with each other.
During the tales you see the disintegration of society in Afghanistan. Happy families are torn apart by death and political upheaval. Thriving cities are now piles of rubble ruled over by warlords who are merciless. Rules are imposed that remind you of what the Jews had to endure in Nazi Germany, only this time it is the Afghan women who are being oppressed.
But through it all you see the indomitable spirits of these women. They find a way to survive the most incredible challenges. They love, they hope, they plan for the future. They try to create normalcy for their children. They shake their heads at the men riding by in the backs of trucks with their rifles and airs of self-importance. They even stay optimistic that their lot in life will eventually change.
This book in amazing, just as I expected it to be after my previous experience with Hosseini’s The Kite Runner. Despite the subject matter, it is extremely fast reading. I learned and understand more about the plight of the Afghan people from A Thousand Splendid Suns than anything I’ve seen or heard from the media.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who watches those news stories about the Middle East with a sense of mild apathy. After all, those countries are always fighting amongst themselves and with others. There are so many names of leaders, cities, warlords, and factions we don’t understand. I know my sympathy has diluted over the years because all of these problems seem to melt together until one isn’t distinguishable from the other.
What I most appreciated about this book is that the reader gets an inside perspective of what life was like before, during, and after the Taliban took over the main cities of Afghanistan. You see how lives change. I, personally, felt thankful for having been born in the USA (which is something I haven’t done in a long time.)
Give yourself the gift of an amazing read that will leave you with knowledge of a forgotten group of people–the women of Afghanistan–and a heightened sense of compassion for everyone. Read Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns. It will stay with you for a long time.