Monday, February 2, 2015

Book Review for A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

After 103 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and with four million copies of The Kite Runner shipped, Khaled Hosseini returns with a beautiful, riveting, and haunting novel that confirms his place as one of the most important literary writers today.

Propelled by the same superb instinct for storytelling that made The Kite Runner a beloved classic, A Thousand Splendid Suns is at once an incredible chronicle of thirty years of Afghan history and a deeply moving story of family, friendship, faith, and the salvation to be found in love.

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. With heart-wrenching power and suspense, Hosseini shows how a woman’s love for her family can move her to shocking and heroic acts of self-sacrifice, and that in the end it is love, or even the memory of love, that is often the key to survival.

A stunning accomplishment, A Thousand Splendid Suns is a haunting, heartbreaking, compelling story of an unforgiving time, an unlikely friendship, and an indestructible love.

I stayed up until 4 am to finish this book. I’m writing this the following afternoon, so I am still very close to it. The weight of this story still sits heavily in my heart; I’m trying to decide how to begin.
I really want to shake Khaled Hosseini’s hand. I read the Kite Runner a few years back and was so blown away by the emotional capacity of that book. I bought A Thousand Splendid Suns shortly after, excited to read more by this author. You bookworms know how it is though; other books are released that seem more pressing to read and many books are set aside for a time. I have had this particular book sitting on my shelf since, unread. I finally decided to pick it up a few days ago and it quickly became one of those “I can’t believe what I’ve been missing” books.  I think what makes this book resonate so strongly is the fact that, although it is a work of fiction, it is a realistic depiction of the lives of many women of Afghanistan.  It is a story of the strength, love and endurance of these women.

A Thousand Splendid Suns begins with the story of Mariam, an illegitimate child who never felt she belonged and grew up knowing only rejection and scorn. As a teenager she is made to marry Rasheed, a widower much older than she and move to a city far away from her home with this stranger. Unable to bear children, Mariam is brutally shamed and often beaten by Rasheed over many years. She is forced to cover every inch of herself. She has nothing and no one.

Some years later, on the same street, begins the story of a young girl, Laila: smart as a whip and free-spirited. When tragedy befalls her family, and Laila is too young to understand, she turns to her best friend Tariq. Growing up together, Laila falls in love with Tariq. In their teenage years, it is not considered appropriate for them to be friends as before, but when their city becomes a place of war and circumstances threaten to separate them, their love for one another wins out over these beliefs. Most families flee the country, including Tariq’s. At first Laila plans to leave as well, to find Tariq, but her world is soon turned upside down.

From this point, the two women’s stories converge and become one. Their lives don’t intersect so much as collide. Trapped in the war-stricken city of Kabul, these women have more to fear, more to endure than the war outside, for the ones inside the walls of their home and their hearts are just as threatening. But perhaps, together they can survive.

Let me tell you how this book got me. At first, I was really enjoying it – I was interested – but I wasn’t 100% invested. Gradually, it crept up on me, snuck into all the corners of my mind until suddenly I couldn’t separate myself from the story of these two women. I was, quite literally, sucked in. It made me angry and sad and made me feel proud to be a woman. What a gift it is to bring to life for readers a whole different world that we cannot even fathom. While this story took place across the globe from me, I felt like I could understand what Mariam and Laila were going through, feel what they were feeling. The strength they inspire in one another is so inspirational and uplifting. While this book is so filled with tragedy and loss and brutality and guilt, it is also a story about courage and love and sacrifice and redemption. Khaled Hosseini has a remarkable talent for sparking emotions so strongly that it takes you by surprise and leaves you nearly breathless.

Also, I cried. Like, a lot. Not just tearing up either. I mean I wept.  By then end of the book this was exactly me on my couch:

I’m sorry this has been such a serious review, but I was so moved by this novel. A beautiful story. 5 stars. Go read. I’m out! xox

1 comment:

  1. This book devastated me, Lara. SO good! I loved it even more than The Kite Runner since it explored women's issues. Excellent review.