Saturday, July 21, 2007

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

This is a heart breaking story of loss and stamina. A great second novel about the beauty and despair and hope of Afghanistan and the people who live there.

I read this book in a long day - I spent much of the afternoon in the hospital waiting room as my mother-in-law recovered from foot surgery. Then I finished it this evening. I think it gives a different perspective in a reading so close together.

The story follows the lives of two very different women - Mariam and Laila. Both are raised near Kabul. But their lives are very different. Mariam is the illigetimate daughter of a prominant Heran resident. She is raised by a bitter and saddened mother. She believes explicitly what her father tells her on the weekly visits to her hovel. Yet, when she comes to him to claim her as his rightful daughter, he sends her away to Kabul to be married to Rasheed, a man 20 years her senior. Years of miscarriages have changed the way this couple functions - Mariam is little more than Rasheed's slave and punching bag.

Laila is the youngest daughter of the local teacher. She is his pet and her learning never stops. That is until the Soviets take over and the bombs begin. After her family is killed she is taken in by Rasheed and becomes the second wife in this disfunctional home.

The years pass with each one bringing additional hardships and increasingly impossible living standards. Then the Taliban takes over.

I kept thinking about how this could all happen. Afghan was a wealthy and culturally vibrant country before.... then the wars started and slowly the people unraveled placing their hopes on different saviours. Each a bit more awful than the one they had lived under. It's easy to imagine that this could only happen over there... but the over there seems to be creeping ever closer.

It drew me up short and forced me to think a bit - or a lot. Would I have the resilence to continue?

I would highly recommend this one - but I would recommend the Kite Runner first - it's his first novel and an amazing story. These two work well together - the first from the man's perspective and this from the woman's. They are equally sad and yet full of hope!

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