What’s This Book All About?
After reading my review about The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini it would not come as a surprise to any of you, that he is one of my most favorite authors. So when, A Thousand Splendid Suns came along, I had to read it at the earliest possible opportunity. Very similar in tone and sensibilities as The Kite Runner, this is another heart touching and impressive novel.
The Bigger Picture
The story begins with the introduction of Mariam, who is an illegitimate child and lives with her epileptic mother on the outskirts of Herat. In her sad life, the only source of joy are the weekly visits that she has from her father. She longs to abandon her home and live with her father in the city. However, due to an unfortunate turn of events, Mariam is compelled into a marriage with Rasheed, a man much older than her and is forced to settle down with him in the city of Kabul. Despite the trauma of having to live her life with a complete stranger who insists that Mariam wear burqas and hide in her room when visitors arrive, she is still hopeful of making her marriage work, especially after she becomes pregnant with his child. But as destiny has other plans, Mariam’s life becomes a living hell after a series of miscarriages and she becomes a complete prisoner in Rasheed’s home. From here, the story focuses on the life of Laila, a young and vibrant neighbor of Mariam. As Laila’s father deeply values education and empowerment of women, he brings up his daughter in a very liberal and modern manner with proper emphasis on education, ambition and opinions. In addition, Laila’s boyfriend, Tariq is also a very respectful and intelligent person who considers Laila as his equal and who enjoys going on various trips and cinemas with her. As the story progresses, Laila’s life is tragically torn apart when her entire family perishes in bombings that occurred in the country during the Soviet Union invasion. Orphaned and torn away from Tariq as well, she is forced to become the second wife of Rasheed. The growing atrocities of Rasheed and their mutual love for Laila’s children gradually unite the two women. From here the story evolves around the life of these two women and how they continue to strengthen and try to protect each other from the horrors that they are forced to endure on a daily basis. The result is a beautiful and poignant relationship that results between Mariam and Laila, just like that of a mother and daughter.
Written without excessive sentimentality, this book does not try to show the main characters as victims but as women who have immense strength and courage. It shows the indomitable spirit that women possess and the extent of sacrifice that they are willing to endure for the love and security of their family and friends. Dealing with common themes of human suffering, the immense struggle that women go through in order to live life according to their desires, the effects of war and nationhood, domestic violence and political forces that disrupt normal lives, this story is universal and are themes that can affect anyone in any part of the world. We as a nation may sometimes consider ourselves more advanced and developed than Afghanistan but the problem of inequality faced by women, natives and minorities plague almost every country. Sometimes it is so easy to judge other people and countries but in reality we are facing a similar kind of battle within our very own society. A Thousand Splendid Suns clearly demonstrates to us that unless all sections of our societies including women are treated with respect and dignity, there is very little that can prevent us from breaking up into small minuscule warring units.
A book with a mind and a conscience, A Thousand Splendid Suns is a story of love which can heal brokenness and pain on one hand and on the other hand cause irreparable loss and damage. So while the love of her father and Tariq helped Laila to blossom and grow, the love between Mariam and her mother only ended in tragedy because it was so flawed and damaged. The role of parents in our society is also an underlying element in this book. Because Mariam’s mother was so broken, she ended up raising a broken daughter. On the other hand, Laila’s father instilled values of education and empowerment in his daughter, so she was able to grow into a confident and empowered person. When daughters are raised in an empowered and educated family, the result is nations that can grow and prosper. As it has been rightly pointed out by the author himself, “A society has no chance of success if its women are uneducated…”
I highly recommend this book and the authors’ previous, The Kite Runner. Both these books will take you on journeys that will thrill, inspire and challenge you to open your hearts in so many genuine and heartfelt ways.
BUY THE BOOK. It goes without saying that A Thousand Splendid Suns is highly recommended for anyone who is still to read the book. A book that will tug at all your heart-strings, this novel depicts the immense power that love and hope brings into the lives of both Mariam and Laila, thereby giving them the courage to transcend their own weakness. Also, how despite their limitations and vulnerabilities they are ready to perform devastating acts of self-sacrifice. It is an amazing novel based on friendship, family, faith and salvation that can be found in love.
So did you like A Thousand Splendid Suns? What did you feel after reading the book? Feel free to comment below and let me know what you felt about the book.