Mirroring the arduous lives of two women caught in three decades of warring factions in Afghanistan, Hosseini's moving novel reveals the horrors of war as experienced by the victims. Mariam is a girl born out of wedlock to a married father; her mother is allowed a hovel far removed from his home, where Mariam's father enjoys a reputation as a successful businessman. Idolizing her father, when she walks to the city on the occasion of her fifteenth birthday, Mariam receives her first dose of reality: her father refuses to acknowledge her in front of his wives. Defeated, her heart broken, she returns home only to be dealt another blow. Left to the reluctant care of her father, the girl is hastily married to Rasheed, a shoemaker from Kabul many years her senior. Experiencing virtually nothing of the world, Mariam suffers the restrictions of a heavy-handed husband who quickly rejects his young wife when she fails to deliver a son.
Laila is an intelligent, curious girl raised in an educated family by parents who encourage their daughter's successes. But after her childhood sweetheart, Tariq, leaves the country with his family to escape the increasing violence, a random explosion leaves Laila in the care of her neighbor, Rasheed. Laila marries Rasheed to avoid scandal after spending a night under his roof. Enthralled with his lovely new bride, Rasheed ignores Mariam in favor of the younger woman, Mariam naturally resentful of the new bride. Her world suddenly constricted by Rasheed's insular views of women, Laila is trapped inside a brutal marriage. Each regime change reinforces Rasheed's contemptible treatment of his wives and the women eventually bond as victims of abuse. Taking an interest in Laila's little daughter, Mariam assumes a role that has been denied to her; later, when Laila's son is born, Mariam is as happy as possible for a woman in her situation. Still, their predicament is inescapable, their courage great; hence, the power of the novel.
Ironically, the only truly free time Laila enjoys is under the domination of the Communists who allow equal freedom to women; soon after the signs are ominous, from the Soviet years to the Taliban. Once under Rasheed's roof, both Mariam and Laila are virtually obliterated, their identities erased as if they are buried alive in the marriage. Delighting in the ascendancy of the Taliban, Rasheed declares, "I, for one, will shower them with rose petals". What is increasingly clear as the women are burdened each year by a thankless existence, Rasheed buoyed by an increasingly restrictive government, is how slowly time passes when people are suffering. What is fodder for political debate in one country is life and death in another. Mariam and Laila endure and the extent to which they manage to do so is extraordinary. Politics may be relative, but there is no way to avoid the truth of the suffering of those trapped in the jaws of a government that fails to protect its citizens. Hosseini has crafted an eloquent reminder of the value of freedom and the weight of oppression. Luan Gaines.
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 … more
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.
An artist/writer, I have traveled the world, walked on the moon and learned the complicated language of humanity, the enormity of the universe... all through the written word. My first passport was a … more
Consider the Source
Use Trust Points to see how much you can rely on this review.