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.
Genre: Adult/Fiction/Historical Fiction/Contemporary
Rating: 5/5 Stars
First Line: “Mariam was five years old the first time she heard the word harami.”
I have been wanting to read more of Khaled Hosseini’s books since I finished The Kite Runner almost three years ago now, for a project my junior year of high school. His writing style is breathtaking, full of subtle imagery and emotion that sneaks up on you. Before you know it, you’re so invested in the characters it would be impossible to stop.
Just like when I read The Kite Runner, I was captivated by this country that is always portrayed as “other” in Western culture. Hosseini describes Afghanistan in vivid detail, he puts you in the shoes of the children who ran around, climbing trees, making friends, playing with toys, and then shows you how these children grew up, what changed in their lives as the country around them changed. Before I read The Kite Runner, I had no idea that Afghanistan was (and is) a beautiful place. In my mind, it was always a desert where people went to war. Hosseini’s books prove that image wrong, over and over, and A Thousand Splendid Suns is no different.
The book starts with Mariam’s story, a heartbreaking, infuriating story of a little girl who deserved so much more than what she was given. After establishing Mariam’s beginning, the focus shifts to Laila, who grows up much more fortunate than Mariam, but still has her struggles. I loved Laila’s relationship with her father, loved the friendship between her and Tariq, loved reading that friendship grow into something more. I definitely think I identified with Laila more so than any other character. Eventually, Laila’s life is also struck by tragedy and Mariam and Laila end up in the same household. This is where their relationship grows to be one of the most realistically beautiful relationships I’ve read about in a book.
This book is not one you can just sit and get through in a day. It’s absolutely beautiful, and you could call it a page-turner because there are moments when the suspense literally has you on the edge of your seat, chewing your nails. But this book is also emotionally heavy. Without giving too much away, there is tragedy in each of the character’s lives. There is not a happy ending for every character, though some endings are happier than others. But there is so much hope in this book, there is redemption, there is regret and love and innocence.
I think that’s what makes Hosseini’s books so special: they’re about more than a single person, more than a single country, more, even, than an entire generation. His books deal with the humanity in all of us. And it’s heartbreaking and beautiful and hopeful.
I can’t say enough good things about this book. The way Hosseini painted a portrait of Afghanistan before, during, and after, the many wars, the way he portrayed women and the struggles they faced, the way he made even the worst of people seem human, along with everything else I’ve written about make this book one I would recommend to just about anyone. If you’re ready to read a more serious book that will open your mind and your heart to the world and the people around you, this one is for you.