I have travelled many times to Afghanistan and Pakistan in the last few books I’ve read and Khaled Hosseini paradoxically broke and captured my heart with “The Kite Runner”. With “A Thousand Splendid Suns” he did it all over again. Hosseini is a prolific writer. The stories, both initially set in Afghanistan are quite different yet equally heart-wrenching and thought-provoking.
“A Thousand Splendid Suns” begins in the life of young Mariam, a girl born out of wedlock to a woman suffering from periodic mental disorder. She spent the first fifteen years of her life in a small wooden house near a stream with her mother. Mariam’s father, whom she adored, visited her once a week, feeding all her mind’s fantasies with his stories and descriptions. But not once had he brought her to the places he described: his house with many children and three wives, his cinema and the splendid city of Kabul. Eventually Mariam convinces him to take her to his cinema, but when he did not show up, she took matters into her own hands. From that day, life as she knew it spiraled its way to the depths of hell’s hottest fires. She learnt what her mother rang in her head for fifteen years: The women of their servant class only knew one thing, and it was how to endure. Mariam was married off three days after her mother’s suicide under a tree outside their little house. She and her husband now lived in Kabul.
Mariam’s neighbour gave birth to a blonde haired, green eyed beauty named Laila the day before Afghanistan became the Islamic State of Afghanistan. Laila grew up in an Afghanistan that became more violent by the day. Conflict was common between the nation’s people, because of religious and political beliefs. Bombs and missiles rained on the city of Kabul and she and her childhood friend Tariq saw it in the distance and heard of the people killed. Laila’s mother grieved while she missed her sons who were fighting the Soviet soldiers and Laila’s father encouraged her to excel in her schooling. Finally, the Soviets left Afghanistan but the bombings increased to the point Laila and her family felt the urge to flee Kabul.
Hosseini makes many unnerving, stomach churning plot twists in his novel which requires full attention of the heart and soul. Reading “A Thousand Splendid Suns”, I wandered through the streets of Afghanistan as a woman, into a life I would never have been able to survive. The novel shows the disheartening hypocrisy lying in the laws against women and the rights they are deprived of daily. Khaled Hosseini once again evokes awareness of the difference between human worlds while keeping grace and poise in his writing.