I finished reading Khaled Hosseini's second offering a few days ago and I'm still thinking about it. The Kite Runner, his debut, earned a prominent place on my bookshelf, and I have to admit that I didn't have very high expectations for Suns. How can you strike gold twice? But Hosseini has. When Aaron found me shortly after I had read the last few lines, I was bawling like a baby, snot bubbles and all. It's a sorry picture, I know. Of course, Aaron had to dispel the magic of the book by commenting, "The Tin Woman found her heart." He's so unfair sometimes. Just because I don't cry often doesn't mean I'm heartless, thank you very much.
Anyway, Suns tells the intersecting story of two women living in Afghanistan. Mariam is a harami, a bastard child whose father has three legitimate wives--Mariam's mother was the maid. When Mariam's mother dies, her father is forced to take her in, but only briefly. Her step-mothers arrange her marriage to a shoemaker in Kabul, a city some 600+ kilometers from her hometown of Herat. Rasheed, Mariam's aging husband, is abusive and harsh, and he makes his young wife wear a burqa and stay indoors. When war breaks out between the Russians occupying Afghanistan and revolutionaries, their world begins to fall apart. Rockets rain down on Kabul, and in the crossfire a young woman named Laila loses her parents... I think I'd better stop there. If I tell you much more I'll begin to ruin some of the twists the story takes. It's just... wow.
One of the things that I loved about this book was the history lesson that is woven through the narrative. It explains the birth of a modern-day understanding of jihad, the Taliban, and radical Islam in a way that all my Newsweek reading was unable to impart. And it's an all-around beautiful story. It's haunting, heartbreaking, and hopeful. I loved it.