With his second novel, Khaled Hosseini proves beyond a shadow of doubt that "The Kite Runner" was no flash in the Afghan pan. Once again set in Afghanistan, the story twists and turns its way through the turmoil and chaos that ensued following the fall of the monarchy in 1973, but focuses mainly on the lives of two women, thrown together by fate.
The story starts decades before the Taliban came into power in 1996, and ends after the era of Taliban rule. The main character begins life as a "harami" - the illegitimate daughter of a wealthy man and one of his housekeepers. Forced to live in a small shack with her emotionally disturbed and possibly epileptic mother, Mariam lives for Thursdays, the day her father comes to see her, bearing small gifts and showering her with the affection she craves. Naturally, Mariam wants to be a part of her father's life and fit in with his legitimate family, but when she attempts to force his hand, she is rebuffed and feels betrayed by his reaction. Her impetuous actions bring an end to the life she has known for fifteen long years, and lead to an arranged marriage to a much older man, a shoemaker, whose views on the rights of women mirror those that the Taliban would soon enforce.
During the time that Mariam is dutifully enduring her unhappy marriage, a neighbor gives birth to a baby girl, whom they name Laila. By her ninth birthday, Laila has grown up to be a beautiful child with blonde hair, turquoise-green eyes, high cheekbones and dimples. Unfortunately, her mother lives only for the day her older sons will return home from fighting the jihad, and is consumed by the vision of a free Afghanistan. Laila's best friend is a boy named Tariq, her confidant, defender and co-conspirator, and by the end of communist rule in 1992, Laila is fourteen, and beginning to see Tariq in a different way that she does not quite understand.
The enthusiastic rejoicing at the end of the jihad is silenced by the internal battles of the Mujahideen, and when the bombs start falling on Kabul, Laila and Tariq are forced apart. Circumstances can make strange things happen, and Laila soon becomes a part of Mariam's husband's household, by necessity rather than choice. The rest of this unforgettable story reflects the heart-rending sacrifices of these women, and allows the reader a peek behind the burqa, to the heart of Afghanistan.
There are parts of this book that will have grown men surreptitiously blotting the tears that are on the verge of overflowing their ducts, and by the time you get to the middle, you won't be able to put it down. Hosseini's simple but richly descriptive prose makes for an engrossing read, and in my opinion, "A Thousand Splendid Suns" is among the best I have ever read. This is definitely not one to be missed.
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.
I write reviews for a hobby. Most of my reviews are short and to the point, on account of my short attention span. I try to make my reviews both informative and entertaining, and sometimes I succeed. … more
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