A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini is about two young women living in Afghanistan whose lives end up intimately entwined during the turmoil that Afghanistan has experienced in the last 30 or 40 years.
Mariam was a young bastard girl who, at 15, was given away to be married a man who was much older than her. In Kabul, Mariam lived down the street from a family who, many years later, have a young daughter named Laila who is about 19 years younger than Mariam. After the conflict that arose shortly after the Russians left Afghanistan, Laila’s and Mariam’s lives cross more closely than being mere neighbours. They were there for the rise of the Taliban, and for all of the executions and violence and oppression that followed. They were in Afghanistan after the towers in New York fell. In the end, there is somewhat of a happy note with a love story and the characters finally reach something of a note of happiness after many tragic years. To be honest though, as much as A Thousand Splendid Suns didn’t go from being very tragic to suddenly very happy, I am sort of glad that Hosseini writes his books like that because I feel like it is a more realistic view of what it is really like for many people to live in Afghanistan, and that giving everyone a super happy ending, based on the general North American expectation, isn’t going to do justice to reality.
Hosseini is a master at crafting tragic and beautifully written stories. I read this book shortly after The Kite Runner, Hosseini’s first book, and both of them are so tragic. A Thousand Splendid Suns highlights the tragedies and horrors experienced by Afghani’s who have been living in Afghanistan since the fall of the king about 40 years ago, since the invasion by Russia, since the tumultuous war that followed, and since the introduction of the Taliban. Even though it’s fictionalized, it’s based on the realities experienced in Afghanistan, which makes its impact even more devastating. It’s unimaginable to think that the lives of the women in A Thousand Splendid Suns is reflective of the reality of many Afghani women.