A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
Rating: 4 1/2 stars
Where do I begin?
Well, I’ll start with brutal honesty, I don’t read. Clearly by the fact that I am typing these words, I’m not illiterate, but nonetheless, my reading habits are a barren wasteland. I go years without picking up a work of fiction, then with the right suggestion, or bout of boredom, I pick something up and it grabs me. From there, I devour it and everything else that author has penned, followed by anything else I can get my hands on in order to keep the momentum going. It nevers stays. I always end up halfway through a crappy book, give up, and set it and all reading aside until another juggernaut comes along and demands my attention again, inspiring another manic book frenzy.
A Thousand Splendid Suns may very well have caused such a frenzy.
I was required to read Suns as an assignment for my Popular and Contemporary Fiction class (yes, I am back in school Can’t be a professor without a degree) and upon first seeing the cover, I feared I wouldn’t enjoy the read. I was so utterly misinformed.
Suns is the story of two women in Afghanistan. Their tales span from the Communist occupation to the recent Taliban regime, watching firsthand as their country crashes in on itself like a dying star. The language is simple, yet at times poetic, weaving the dust and sun of an Afghan morning, or the textures of rice and lamb kebab on the palette. The world of Afghanistan was as powerful as the characters – Mariam and Laila. Despite having never set foot in the Arab world, I was lost there within the first few pages, only released when the book finished.
The story follows Mariam, a bastard child from Herat who is given away in marriage at the age of fifteen, and Laila, the youngest child of a boisterous mother and a forward thinking father, adamant on her education and happiness. We follow their lives as simple daily life turns treacherous as the atmosphere of Afghanistan changes, tensions rise, then explode in a constant war waged by conflicting tribes and warlords. The simple childhood of Laila, growing closer and more attached to her childhood friend, Tariq; and the sorrows of married life for the older Mariam, are set against the backdrop of bombs and gunfire, increasingly, and the inner workings of a culture where many women are considered second class citizens, if even that.
These women’s stories draw you in and make you love alongside them, and love them, until you feel as trapped as Mariam in her prison, or you are longing for Tariq as passionately as Laila.
I read the novel in two days. As a result of the ease of reading – his short chapters, simple expression and attention to detail drew me in despite my fear that I might find it difficult to relate to such a tale.
My only criticism of the novel as a whole is that the end seemed to push past its natural place a bit, giving a feel of wandering toward the very end. Still, by the last page, I was grateful for the knowledge I gained in those pages – for the closure and comfort they offered me.
It is tense reading at times, tragic at others, but it finds its closure and some peace by the final page. I would readily suggest this book to anyone who wants to get lost on the other side of the world.