Book Review- A Thousand Splendid Suns

Ketaki Deshpande


    A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khalid Hosseini tells a fascinating, devastating, and engrossing account of a tough time, an unusual friendship, and an everlasting love. The book details the romance between Laila and Tariq, Mariam’s selfless act, and Rasheed’s brutality and cruelty.

    Two Afghan ladies, Mariam and Laila, are essential to the plot of A Thousand Splendid Suns. Despite having been born 20 years apart, the turbulent events of the book connect their lives. Together, they valiantly face all odds.

    Through an incredibly captivating story of family, friendship, and optimism, the plot of A Thousand Splendid Suns weaves together the dramatic events of Afghanistan’s last thirty years, from the Soviet invasion to the Taliban’s rule to the post-Taliban rebuilding. The novel tells a moving tale of two generations of women whose lives are irrevocably linked to the events taking place around them as a result of the sorrowful sweep of war.

     Mariam, an illegitimate child of Jalil, a local businessman from the town of Herat, is the protagonist of the story. After her mother passes away, she is married off hastily to Rasheed, a much older shoemaker who is a violent man and claims it makes him uncomfortable “to see a man who’s lost control of his wife.”

    Credit: Khaled Hosseini

    Rasheed has Mariam wear a burqa and treats her with undisguised disdain, mocking, insulting, and even physical abuse. Mariam lives in fear of “his shifting moods, his volatile temperament, his insistence on steering even mundane exchanges down a confrontational path that, on occasion, he would resolve with punches, slaps, kicks, and sometimes try to make amends for with polluted apologies and sometimes not.”

    The life of the novel’s other heroine, Laila, who becomes Rasheed’s second wife, takes an even sharper trajectory toward ruin. Though she is the cherished daughter of an intellectual, who encourages her to pursue an education, Laila finds her life literally shattered when a rocket — cast by one of the warlord cliques fighting for control of Kabul, after the Soviet Union’s departure — lands on her house and kills her parents.

    Tariq, her committed boyfriend, and his family have already fled Kabul for Pakistan as refugees, leaving her an orphan with no support system or friends. She accepts to marry Rasheed when she finds she is expecting Tariq’s child and that Tariq is reportedly dead after suffering injuries in a rocket attack close to the Pakistani border because she believes she and her unborn child can never survive on their own in Kabul.

    Mariam first views Laila as an opponent and accuses her of taking her husband; however, after the birth of Laila’s child, Aziza, Mariam starts to change her mind. She and Laila eventually team up in an effort to protect one another from Rasheed’s abuse.Mariam becomes a second mother to Aziza, and she and Laila grow close.

     The way that Hosseini portrays the conflict and its aftermath via these characters is what makes his writing so brilliant. The narrative covers the condition of Afghanistan at the time the Soviet Union invaded, Babrak Karmal established a puppet government, and the Taliban seized power. These incidents are all accurately documented. Both the drama a reader wants and some truth to them are evident. This is what truly makes it a page turner.

    By the end of it, you have a fire kindled within yourself as well as a tear. Above all else, it is a tale of hope and of life, of the courage that comes with love and the unavoidable conflict that comes with living. A fantastic and inspirational story, a must read for everyone.

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