Saturday, January 10, 2009

A Thousand Splendid Suns

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.


  1. i read this book last year and it is very moving and powerful. i was blubbering like a baby also by the end of it.

  2. I have read both of his books and they are very moving and heart wrenching. There were times in both of them that were so intense I literally had to take a break from reading for a day or two because it was so painful to read. The hard part to realize is that this stuff is really happening.

  3. Oh, I agree. It's so easy to pretend that everything is okay when we live in the lap of luxury in North America. We're very blessed, even if we don't always feel that way.

    And yet, reading these sorts of books makes me feel very helpless sometimes. What can I do to change another person's life situation? I know that transformation in any situation begins one person, one story at a time, but I long for colossal change. Now. Quick. The "long journey in the same direction" thing is agonizing. Yikes, did that have anything to do with Hosseini's book?!? :)

  4. Okay, perhaps I'm more of an ice princess than you are--I didn't cry. Still I was constantly checking the date within the story to confirm that yes, these events were happening within my lifetime. I was humbled, and grateful, and apalled, and enraged, and I could go on and on. I still want to get into "The Kite Runner" but my reading time is far too limited!!!!