Book Review: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

A Thousand Splendid Suns (2007) by Khaled Hosseini is a novel set in modern day Afghanistan which by definition means it will be tragic.  It tells the story of two women against the backdrop of war with the Soviet Union, the mujahideen, the rise and fall of the Taliban, and the American invasion of 2001. Part I tells the story of Mariam who is born out-of-wedlock to a wealthy businessman and his maid and grows up on the outskirts of a provincial town.  Weekly visits from her father are a joy in Mariam’s lonely life but as a teenager incidents portrayed in the book lead Mariam to become disillusioned with her father and lose her mother to suicide.  Part II tells the story of Laila, raised in Kabul and encouraged to get an education by her progressive father.  As civil war begins to tear Afghanistan apart, Laila falls in love with her childhood friend Tariq. Unfortunately, Laila’s mother’s misguided devotion to the mujahideen means that Laila’s family are unable to flee until it’s too late.

As a result of the tragic events in their lives, both Mariam and Laila find themselves forced to marry Rasheed, an older man and shoemaker with traditionalist expectations of his wives.  Things are tense between the two women at first, but their shared suffering at the hands of Rasheed bring them together in friendship, and soon in love.  Soon Mariam, Laila, and Laila’s two children are a family under the repressive Taliban regime.  At the end of Part III, Mariam makes the ultimate sacrifice to enable a happier future for Laila and the children.  Unfortunately, Part IV tries to make too tidy of an ending to this story.  I mean we want good things to happen to these characters but at the same time the all-too-perfect resolution is at odds with the gritty realism of the rest of the narrative.

Author Hosseini, Khaled.
Title A thousand splendid suns [sound recording] / Khaled Hosseini.
Publication Info. New York : Simon & Schuster Audio, p2007.
Edition Unabridged.
Description 11 sound discs (12 hr.) : digital ; 4 3/4 in.

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