A Thousand Splendid Suns

A beautiful jacket design my David Mann

I recently read A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, who also wrote Kite Runner. This is another fantastic piece of literature by Hosseini. I originally read this book some five or six years ago, so I wanted to reread and experience the world Hosseini creates for a second time. Just enough time had passed that I remembered only the basic plot, so I was still surprised and touched at different moments of the book. This may have some spoiler alerts – it’s impossible to describe the plot without giving some things away!

This book focuses mostly on Miriam, and later Laila. Both are women that are thrown into unfortunate circumstances and forced marriages, but they find comfort and strength in each other. It opens with Miriam, describing her childhood as an outsider. She was born out of wedlock and her and her mother live far outside the city in a small shack built by her father. After her mother commits suicide, Miriam is married away when she is 15 to a man about 40 years her senior, Rasheed. When she fails to deliver a son, he becomes abusive.

The book then switches and describes Laila’s childhood. She was raised to believe she could acomplish anything despite the circumstances, and is devastated when the developing war prevents her from attending school. Her relationship with her close friend Tariq develops until one day his family leaves the city for a safer country. Laila’s house is later hit by a bomb, killing her parents. Rasheed takes her in and forces Miriam to heal Laila. Later, Rasheed marries Laila and, she gives birth to first a baby girl and then a son. However, there is a secret about the little girl’s real father, and when Rasheed discovers it he explodes. He is abusive toward both women, but Miriam and Laila bond and are brought together in strength. Tariq returns one day and promises to take them away. What happens next can only be described as an explosive climax to the book, leaving Rasheed dead, Miriam arrested for murder, and Tariq, Laila, and the two children fleeing the war-torn country.

This book is haunting and beautiful. The friendship between Miriam and Laila is incredible and delicately written. Hosseini captures exactly the bonds between friends, mothers and their children, and families in a touching way. I cried again when I read the ending (I remember crying the first time I read it). The book ends with hope for the future, and provides a unique perspective on what happened in Afghanistan pre- and post- 9/11. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in dramas about family and relationships, different cultures, or anyone who just wants to try something new. It’s a fantastic book, and I definitely enjoyed my experience rereading it!

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