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A Thousand Splendid Suns

Posted Aug 8 2008

If you’re familiar with Hosseini’s first book The Kite Runner, or the movie of the same name, you already know what to expect; living in Afghanistan is hard. Someone asked me what’s one thing that stood out to me about this book and I simply told her, “I’m glad I wasn’t born a female in Afghanistan.”

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If you’re familiar with Hosseini’s first book The Kite Runner, or the movie of the same name, you already know what to expect; living in Afghanistan is hard. Someone asked me what’s one thing that stood out to me about this book and I simply told her, “I’m glad I wasn’t born a female in Afghanistan.” A Thousand Splendid Suns is the fictional tale of two women, Mariam and Laila, spanning several decades of Afghani history, from the Soviet occupation to the recent U.S. attempts to eradicate the Taliban and other terrorist forces. Laila and Miriam lives become intertwined as they end up married to the same man, an abusive shoe cobbler named Rashid. At first, the two women are antagonists, particularly the older Mariam viewing the younger Laila as a threat. The two eventually form a pact to escape the suffocating cruelty of Rashid and Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. Nothing comes easy to the pair and while parts of the tale were difficult to take in, like a car crash you know that’s coming, I couldn’t take my eyes away. Just when you don’t think that things can’t get worse, it does. Hosseini’s attention to detail, not just the physical, but also the mental and emotional is powerful, albeit disturbing at times. His account of the Taliban, would make the most die-hard liberal turn into a war hawk. While tales of the Middle East and South Asia are common fare in this day and age, particularly as dealing with oppressive regimes, Hosseini writes another one that stands out from the pack. Nonetheless, this is a dark, depressing book, even if there are bright moments at times, so be warned. As for me, I think I’m through reading about the cruelty of the Taliban for a while. As a stand-alone book, it was an interesting and engaging read, but I’ve reached my breaking point. I’m looking for a more nuanced view of life that doesn’t revolve around the Taliban. Not because these stories don’t need to be told, but because I know Afghanistan has more to offer the world than suffering and hardship. Any recommendations?

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