[Review] A Thousand Splendid Suns - Khaled Hosseini

Title of Book: A Thousand Splendid Suns
Author: Khaled Hosseini
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Publication Year: 2008
Language: English
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Pages: 448

Born a generation apart and with very different ideas about love and family, Mariam and Laila are two women brought jarringly together by war, by loss and by fate. As they endure the ever escalating dangers around them—in their home as well as in the streets of Kabul—they come to form a bond that makes them both sisters and mother-daughter to each other, and that will ultimately alter the course not just of their own lives but of the next generation.


A Thousand Splendid Suns is a tale of two women, Mariam and Laila, who came from different backgrounds. But both lived through the harrowing era of war and invasion in Afghanistan. Mariam is a haram i, an illegitimate daughter of a famous business owner named Jalil. Her mother used to be Jalil’s servant. Jalil himself already had three wives and nine legitimate children. To avoid shame, Mariam and her mother, or Nana, cast out from his house to live on the outskirt of town in a small shack. Living in poverty, Nana had already felt enough as long as she had Mariam. Still, Mariam wanted more. Every time Jalil visited them to bring some supplies or gift for Mariam, her need for her father only grew more. She longed for a life where she could live in a same house with her father and her half brothers and sisters. Nana knew that her dream was only just a dream because she could see through Jalil’s affection and gifts. Then on Mariam’s fifteen birthday, she asked a simple gift that would turn her world upside down.
A generation later, Laila was born on the night of the April coup of 1978. She was raised in a family who loved her. Though there are times when life got dark for her family because of the war, her family always supported her. Especially her father. As a university-educated and a teacher, her father never stopped telling her how important education was and that she would grow to be an important figure and useful for the community she lived in. She also had a childhood friend named Tariq who she would later fall in love with. With the increasing danger in her hometown Kabul, her family decided to move out of the town and country. She was excited at this notion as Tariq’s family already moved out of the town two weeks earlier. Unfortunately, a stray bomb attack changed her plan and her life intersected with Mariam’s.
I love Khaled Hosseini’s debut novel, The Kite Runner. I think it’s one of the best books I’ve read. It’s a title that’s difficult to top. Yet, A Thousand Splendid Suns manages to go beyond  that. Different from The Kite Runner, this book revolves more around mother-daughter relationship and women’s role in society, especially Afghan society. This speaks more to me than The Kite Runner because I’m a woman and I’m a daughter so I could relate more to this story. Set in Afghanistan during war and invasion, their tragic story becomes even more tragic with all the death around the characters. It’s an eye-opener to the horrible events in Afghanistan years ago.
I believe this book is one of the books that everyone should read because of the importance of its story. This book shows how damaging a patriarchal society to women and children can be. Moreover, since Afghanistan is a country with Islam as an official state religion, people often perverse the religion to fit their agenda. They twist the teaching of Islam to justify their mistreatment towards women. One prominent example of this comes in the character of Rasheed. Rasheed in the first part of the book was a forty-something year old man who married Mariam. His first wife died years before and he lost his son to a drowning accident. Being 25 years older than Mariam didn’t stop him from marrying Mariam. At first, he showed affection towards Mariam. But when Mariam lost their child due to miscarriage, Rasheed began to resent Mariam and abused her. Rasheed is such a hypocrite in his belief. He told Mariam to wear burqa as it’s a husband’s duty to protect his wife’s honor, yet he hit her and abused her whenever she did the tiniest mistake; which, in my opinion was actually not a mistake at all. It’s almost like he always searched for a reason to hit her. He used his role as a husband to justify his mistreatment towards Mariam. I’ve never read a character that makes me as angry as he does. It also scares me a bit, because people like him still exist nowadays. It’s just scary how realistic he is. 
“As a matter of policy, we do not interfere with private family matters, hamshira.”
“Of course you don’t. When it benefits the man. And isn’t this a ‘private family matter,’ as you say? Isn’t it?"
The star of this book to me, is of course Mariam. She is such a strong woman and an inspiration. Rasheed often belittled her because of her status as an illegitimate child and a village girl. However, she endured it all. All the hardship and the disappointment which came from the men in her lives didn’t stop her from losing hope, especially after Laila came to her life. Though at first she was hostile to Laila, she later realized that Laila was in the same position as her. Being aware that she had nothing much to give, Mariam gave her best to protect Laila and her children and became a mother figure to her. After what happened in her childhood, she understood the kind of sacrifices a mother makes for her children and she willingly did that for Laila.
In a few years, this little girl will be a woman who will make small demands on life, who will never burden others, who will never let on that she too has had sorrows, disappointments, dreams that have been ridiculed. A woman who will be like a rock in a riverbed, enduring without complaint, her grace not sullied but shaped by the turbulence that washes over her.
What makes this book so good is the reflective nature of it. Reading Mariam and Laila’s hardships makes my problems seem so trivial. In a way, this book changes my perspective of life. I believe this book will stay with me. It’s gut-wrenching but touching at the same time. I highly recommend A Thousand Splendid Suns and I give no less than five out of five rating for this book.

One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs
And the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls

No comments :

Post a Comment