Monday, May 11, 2009

Review: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini



The following is a summary of A Thousand Splendid Suns from ReadingGroupGuides.com:

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.

My Review:

Khaled Hosseini is an amazing storyteller and after reading The Kite Runner, I wasn't sure if any novel could ever be considered it's equal, but A Thousand Splendid Suns definitely fits the bill. This book has been on my shelf since it's release a couple of years ago, but wanted to wait until I could read it with my book club. Well that time has finally arrived and it was definitely worth the wait!

This book is about how two unsuspecting Afghan women, from different walks of life, are suddenly brought together. They must learn how to rely and trust one another in order live any life worth living under the Taliban rule. My heart goes out to all women that had to endure the hardships that were thrust upon them during this time. They are all true heroes.

The novel is broken down into four parts, with the first part beginning with the life of Mariam. Mariam is introduced to us a young girl that lives with her mother in a small village. Mariam did not really have a good relationship with her mother, as her mother continually reminds her that they have basically been considered outcasts because of the scandalous relationship that resulted with Mariam's birth. Although her father did visit Mariam in the village often, he did not want her to become a part of his everyday life in the city with his other wives and legitimate children.

Her father was a very successful businesman and lives in a large and luxurious home. One afternoon Mariam decides that her life would be so much better if she had the opportunity to live with her father, so she hikes into the city to find his home. Little does Mariam know that this one decision will change the course of her life drastically.

In the second part of the book, Laila is introduced to us as a young girl with a bright and exciting future ahead of her. Her parents are more liberal than some of their neighbors, as her mother doesn't wear a burqa and since her father is a professor they actually encourage her education. As Laila gets older she gains more hopes and dreams and actually falls in love with her best friend, Tariq.

Throughout this novel different forms of government are fighting for control of Afghanistan, which leaves the country in a state of continual turmoil. Bombings come to be a regular occurance and Laila questions daily if her friends will still be there when she goes to look for them the next day. Many families flee the country in an attempt to protect their families and get on with their lives, but Laila's family decides to wait out the war, knowing that things would get better. Unfortunately this did not happen for Laila's family and the way of life that she had known and was brought up with was to be lost forever.

The third part of the novel was probably my favorite part even though it may have been the most difficult to read. Laila and Mariam are brought together in an unspuspecting way, considering that they both have come from two different walks of life. With the Taliban having full control of the country these women must learn to count on each other for support and love in a way that no one else would be able to provide. They form a relationship that bonds them as sisters and also as a mother and daughter. From the relationship that Mariam developed with Laila, Mariam ponders her own relationship with her mother. Here is an excerpt from page 256 that reveals how Mariam wished she was a better daughter:

Mariam saw now the sacrifices a mother made. Decency was but one. She thought ruefully of Nana, of the sacrifices that she too had made. Nana, who could have given her away, or tossed her in a ditch somewhere and run. But she hadn't. Instead, Nana had endured the shame of bearing a harami, had shaped her life around the thankless task of raising Mariam and, in her own way, of loving her. As she fought her way with impudent resolve to the front of the melee, Mariam wished she had been a better daughter to Nana. She wished she'd understood then what she understood now about motherhood.

From this point forward, Mariam does everything in her power to protect Laila and her children.

In the final part of the book, we are brought to a more current state of Afghanistan. The year is 2003 as the story closes and we have had the opportunity to journey with Mariam and Laila through many changes in governmental power. We have had the opportunity to see women have liberties granted to them to only have them later stripped away. We live in an amazing country that allow us so many freedoms that I think it's important to read a book like this once and awhile so we don't take our many freedoms for granted. God Bless America!

I think you can tell how much I loved this novel, and would suggest that every woman in America read it. To find out more about Khaled Hosseini you can visit his website here. You should also know that Mr. Hosseini is very active with humanitarian efforts that deal with the Afghan Refugee Crisis. He shares on his website some of his findings from his personal trips to villages in Afghanistan. Our entire book club also loved and praised this book and we all rated it 5 out of 5.

My Rating: 5/5

7 comments:

bermudaonion said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed this. I want to read The Kite Runner (which is in my TBR pile) before I read this one.

ANovelMenagerie said...

Kathy... the two books aren't tied in any way... so, you could read this one first :)

Jo-Jo... you and I are always reading the same books! I loved this, too! I also gave it high marks: 10/10.

My bookclub is also reading this!

Here's my review: http://anovelmenagerie.com/ghost/2009/05/08/book-review-a-thousand-splendid-suns/

Sheri

Serena said...

I have not read either of these books, but the more I hear about them, the more likely it is that I will add them to the TBR pile next time I'm at the book store.

Jenny Girl said...

Phenominal review!

Dar said...

Great review Jo-Jo! This novel was amazing!

Bill Doughty said...

Thank you, Jo-Jo,

I enjoyed your review, but chose to scan rather than read the entire article when I saw you might reveal more of the plot than I wanted revealed just yet, since I just started the second chapter...

On the other hand, I recently finished The Kite Runner, and offer my own review for U.S. Navy readers at Navy Reads:

http://navyreads.blogspot.com/

I hope you have a chance to take a look...

Lisa said...

After several weeks of chaos at my house, I'm finally catching up on my blog reading...

I'm so glad you were finally able to read this amazing book! I felt the same way you did after reading The Kite Runner. Yes - every American woman SHOULD read it! You're review was terrific, Jo-Jo!