Long before Mariam was capable of even understanding the concept, she knew she was a "harami" - illegitimate and unwanted. Her impoverished, embittered mother, rejected by the wealthy Afghani business man who had fathered Mariam, spirals downward from disgust and hatred through mental illness to an eventual suicide. She spits the cruel, pejorative label into Mariam's face at every opportunity. Her sole remaining purpose in life is to have Mariam join her in the crushing belief that there is no future, no pleasure, no value, no life and no meaning to being a woman in the male-dominated culture of war-torn 20th century Afghanistan.
At age 15, Mariam makes an impetuous overture to the father she is convinced loves her in a way her mother simply doesn't understand and sadly discovers that her mother was right all along. Her father summarily pushes her out of his life and away from his legitimate family by arranging her marriage to Rasheed, a 40 year old shoemaker, who treats her exactly as Mariam's mother might have predicted. Physical abuse, beatings, sexual assault, intimidation and virtually complete isolation become the hallmarks of a dutiful Mariam's dreadfully unhappy marriage for the next twenty years.
At age 60, Rasheed takes a second wife - Laila, a 14 year old child-woman, separated from Tariq, the young man that she loved and orphaned by the civil war bombs of the bickering Mujahideen warlords. After an impossibly short period of initial infatuation with his new young bride, Rasheed's incorrigible violent misogyny re-surfaces and Laila faces the same daily litany of abuse that Mariam has already known for over twenty years. "A Thousand Splendid Suns" is the gripping, emotionally powerful story of Mariam's and Laila's life together in the wreckage of Kabul, the impoverished Afghanistan city bloodied by years of external war with the Soviets, scarred by civil war among the Mujahideen lords and repressed by the religious intolerance and domination of the Islamic extremists that form the Taliban regime. "A Thousand Splendid Suns" is a novel that nobody will find pretty or comfortable to read. But it is a stirring tale of the sacrifices of two women, their love for their children and the awesome strength and support they give to one another in their refusal to bend and break in the hurricane of diversity that seeks to destroy them.
It's also a very politically charged book that will have both hawks and doves questioning their position as to whether western participation in the Afghani struggles is right or wrong! There are no blacks or whites in this choice ... only an endless morass of muddy shades of dingy grey!
Simply put, Khaled Hosseini has written a magnificent gut-wrenching, heartbreaking novel that will move even the most hard-hearted readers to tears. More than recommended, this is a novel you must not miss!
Even better than The Kite Runner!! There exists in this book, a powerful importance behind each and every detail that realistically describes a nation of oppressed women. The traditions of the country in reference to women are described intensely through the life on one powerful person, in particular. An important read for all people!!
His first book, Kite Runner, told such a horrific story that I was afraid to read his second book but I'm so glad I finally did. Also a story of hard lives, but with so much grace stemming from the relationship between the two lead women. Memorable, authentic, satisfying. Highly recommended.
A Thousand Splendid Suns was one of the saddest stories I ever read. It's well written in the way it is matter of factly written but will still grip you emotionally. You can see the action of what's going on in your mind. I liked how the stories was set in the context of history that a lot of us want to know more about. It ties in events of 911 and there is a sense that you can touch the story with your finger tips. It reminds you of the abuse … more