By Khaled Hosseini
Born a harami, an illegitimate child, Mariam grows up learning and accepting the dysfunctions of family. She holds out hope during her father’s weekly visits, but even that tiny flicker is extinguished after she tries to visit her father to see how his life exists outside of her own. She is quickly married off to an older man, Rasheed, who lives across the country. Mariam learns time and time again that she is unable to bear children and her marriage to Rasheed crumbles to the point where she is little more than a servant in the household. Meanwhile, turmoil, war, and revolution ravage the Afghan country, leaving thousands dead and millions more displaced. Laila, a young girl down the street, loses both her parents to a stray bomb, and Rasheed graciously takes her in as his second wife. Over the years, Laila bears two children, but she also loses favor in the house when Rasheed focuses all his affection on his new son. After years of contentious silence, Mariam and Laila suddenly find themselves bound not only by the confining walls of the house, but also by shared grief, quiet pain, and amazing resilience. No longer isolated together, the strength of their new friendship reignites Mariam’s hope in her ability to care and be cared for by other, while Laila’s love continues to grow with new direction. The two stand together when Laila discovers the love of her youth is still alive, and they face Rasheed with previously unknown courage know that they have the support of each other.
“A Thousand Splendid Suns” by Khlaed Hosseini is a beautiful, inspiring, and devastating novel of destruction, loss, and the phenomenal ability of the human spirit to conquer unimaginable suffering and still continue to rise. Hosseini crafts his characters carefully and with loving detail, showing the early life circumstances that cause Mariam’s initial hostility toward Laila, and Laila’s youth that instills a continuous hope for the ones she loves. Hosseini introduces each character individually, then cleverly brings the storylines together when their lives merge, alternating between perspectives in a way that highlights the differences between Mariam and Laila but does not overwhelm the reader with too much sudden change in the story. Throughout the story, Hosseini unflinchingly describes the slow but steady ruin sweeping Afghanistan by way of warlords, international occupancy, and internal strife. All of this information is central to the story, providing the social and political context for Mariam’s and Laila’s private struggles as they face overwhelming odds at both the personal and public level. By combining all these critical aspects, Hosseini demonstrates that even in the throes of unbelievable suffering, people have the ability to care for each other, help each other, and create a better world through love.
This book is amazing. I love the way Hosseini provides a thorough backstory, I love the way he combines the character’s storylines in his book (both in the story, and in the way he writes the story), I love the history he shares, and I love the overriding message of the book (even with all the sadness and grief it includes). I love all of it. This book is absolutely a must-read.