When I sat down to read this book, the last thing I thought was, “Gee, I’d really like to bawl my eyes out.” Can you guess what happened? I literally had to put down the book at work so I wouldn’t be crying should someone come in for their order. Hard to believe if you know I don’t cry for anything. It’s likely that when he was writing, Hosseini just decided to write down every possible sorrow and horror that could become a woman into one novel. But sweet hallelujah, he does it wonderfully.
Hosseini is native to Afghanistan and has received medical certification in the U.S. However, with his middle-eastern roots, I would personally consider A Thousand Splendid Suns nonfiction even though the characters may not exist. Hosseini exposes the raw and honest joys and struggles of two Afghan women, Laila and Mariam. Knowing that every person and experience is different, these two portrayals could not give example of each woman in Afghanistan, but I would not doubt if they are apt.
The audience is introduced to Mariam, a harami or bastard of a businessman in Kabul. Mariam’s mother was a maid in her father’s house and was sent to a tiny hut to be hidden from society. Her mother is also prone to seizures and verbally places guilt on Mariam for her misfortune. Nonetheless, she is sure to convey to Mariam the important lessons needed in life: “A man’s heart is a wretched, wretched thing. It isn’t like a mother’s womb. It won’t bleed. It won’t stretch to make room for you,” and, “Like a compass needle that points north, a man’s accusing finger will always point towards a woman. Always.” Yet, Mariam still eagerly awaits her father and his red tie and special gifts every Thursday. Until the day she sets out to visit him….
Laila is discovered briefly in the telling of Mariam’s tale, but we soon learn all about her family and close friend, Tariq. As her brothers are away to war, Laila’s mother is bedridden and Laila is left solely to depend on her Babi and Tariq. While the war encroaches on her town, Laila soon feels the effects of conflict and the wrath of the Taliban. Before we know it, Laila and Mariam have crossed paths and formed a unique friendship that won’t conclude until Hosseini has divulged each layer of your heart.
During my reading, it seemed to me that Hosseini was not only revealing the secrets and lives of two Afghan women, but the different men in their life. Each kind or harsh in their own way: Jalil, Rasheed, Tariq, Babi, Mullah Faizulla, Zalmai. Every character, every event twisted my heart. That’s what my favorites do. And this post does not do justice to the incredible lives, and love, Hosseini created between those pages.