Book Review: A Thousand Splendid Suns

*Warning: Contains Spoilers*

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini is an incredible book about two women from different families and different backgrounds who are forced to suffer the same fate as a result of unfortunate events. These two women go on to form an extraordinary bond and fight for their freedom. Unlike Hosseini’s first book The Kite Runner this one focuses more on the lives of young women in Afghanistan. I originally read this book for my English class and absolutely loved it. Hosseini has a certain way of using characters to bring out emotions and create realistic situations. His books are always very honest and raw and discuss subjects that need to be more openly discussed if we want a way to solve them.

This book begins with the narration of a young Afghan girl Marriam who is living a miserable life where she feels trapped by her dramatically possessive mother. She is closer to her father who visits her often but always leaves her anyway. Her father has wives and Marriam’s mother is only a maid who once worked for them and so she lives further away on her own. Her father obviously feels guilty about the situation but is too afraid to do anything about it and Marriam’s mother is too irrational to truly help Marriam understand the situation better.

One unfortunate day, Marriam decides to leave her mother to go visit her father even though she is forbidden to and comes back to find that her mother has committed suicide leaving her all alone. Her father who is influenced by his wives decides to marry her off to a significantly older shoemaker, Rasheed. The marriage quickly goes downhill and soon she lives in fear of his ever changing moods, violent temper, control and trust issues and misogynistic views. He believes that men should never lose control of their wives and to prove this point he forces her to wear a burqa and he often ridicules, insults and torments her, sometimes physically abusing her.

Laila is also a young girl living in Afghanistan whose life is turned upside down when a rocket lands on her house killing her family. Her boyfriend Tariq has already left for Pakistan and when she realizes she’s pregnant with Tariq’s baby she agrees to marry Rasheed when he asks her.

At first Marriam is furious and accuses Laila of stealing her husband but after the baby arrives she starts to soften towards Laila. Soon Marriam and Laila are closer than ever. Knowing that they only have each other they quickly start trying to defend each other against Rasheed’s rages and abuse which only angers him more. Hosseini allows the reader an insight not only into the lives of these women and their suffering but into Afghanistan before and after the Taliban rule. He talks about how men were forced to grow beards, women were forced to cover up, women weren’t allowed to go out of their house alone without being accompanied by a male and at one point he talks about how women in labor were turned away from hospitals because the two genders weren’t allowed to use the same hospitals.

This book really portrays Afghanistan and its people in a different light instead of the stereotypical way we often see it portrayed by the media. It really makes you think about life and how much these people have been through. By the end you will truly become emotionally attached to the characters. This is a must read book that I could not put down.

“One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs, or the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls”

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