A Thousand Splendid Suns

Khaled Hosseini is a popular author whose books are used often for required reading in schools. One of my goals this summer is to read some of these required books that I avoided by being homeschooled. What better way than to start with a book I nabbed for 10 cents?

A Thousand Splendid Suns starts with Mariam, a young Afghani girl looking for her place in the world. She lives in a isolated home with her mother, and Mariam lives for the weekly visits of her father, Jalil, a wealthy businessman with three wives who can’t let go of his illegitimate daughter and her mother. Mariam doesn’t understand her mother’s bitterness, until she experiences the disappointment firsthand. One simple choice sends Mariam’s life down a road she could never have imagined.

Ten years later, Laila is a young girl living in Kabul, the same town Mariam now lives in. Laila’s life seems to be blossoming, everything going so well, until the turmoil of the country at large finally strikes home. Suddenly Laila’s life is unrecognizable and she’s forced to make drastic choices to look after her future.

Mariam and Laila, despite their age gap of 15 or more years, find themselves thrown together living the same life–both are the wife of the same man. While adversaries at first, they learn to be friends, opening up with each other and finding common ground amid their trauma. Together, they begin to consider how to take charge of their futures and find the strength to take action.

I really enjoyed this book, as it laid out the culture and history of Afghanistan, which seems relevant today. But it was a challenging read, the further I got along. The story was heavy, the kind of story that makes you frustrated or angry about how the characters are treated. It’s worse knowing that it’s not entirely fiction.

But Hosseini writes about difficult topics sensitively. His characters feel real, you can sympathize with their fears, their hopeless moments, and their triumphs.

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