Title: A Thousand Splendid Suns
Author: Khaled Hosseini
Author’s Country of Birth: Afghanistan
Genre: Historical Fiction
Page Numbers: 432 pages
Publish Year: 2007
Sand. It’s the first image that comes to mind when I think of the Middle East. I also see the large, beaming sun overhead–high in the sky–either shining down on you with its quiet blessing or glaring down upon your back, burning into your skin. And then, there comes the short media clips of women either all covered from head to toe or wearing their hijab, walking alongside their husband or brother. That, and war.
What is It About?
My heart ached, and my eyes were flooded with tears as I continue to read the book. “A Thousand Splendid Suns” is a story revolving around two Afghan women from two different generations–the older one, Mariam, and the younger one, Laila. The book starts off from Mariam’s point of view, switches over to Laila’s, and then so on forth, telling a tale of fates known to come to Afghan women of their time ranging from arranged marriages, abuse, and having opportunities such as education being taken or given to them again and again. Starting from at around the 1960’s up to 2003, the chronicle of events follow politics, war, and the lives of both women as they overcome obstacles to find happiness. Each challenge continues to test Marian and Laila’s courage, will, determination, patience, and love. Through loss and hope, they have found a mother-daughter relationship with one another and are fighting for a future in a country with no war and filled with positive opportunities for Afghan women like them.
How to Describe the Overall Book?
Even before The Pearls of Reading was created, I often came across raving reviews of Hosseini’s work, and it was all over the internet. Fortunately, I didn’t stumble across any spoilers and the positive opinions of readers persuaded me to check the book out myself! At the same time, I wasn’t sure whether or not “A Thousand Splendid Suns” would surpass my expectations, and I was a little nervous because I have never read story taking place in the Middle East.
I started off with reading the first chapter…and before 6 pm, I came to realize that I had whizzed through six to eight chapters already by evening. I was even crying, with hot tears rolling down my cheeks, sniffling, and rubbing my eyes! My heart broke again and again! I have never felt this sad before over a book! I was hoping for Mariam’s happiness, and when Laila came into the picture, I was cheering for her!
Before, I knew very little of the hardships women like Laila faced in their Middle Eastern country, in their village, their home. Whenever I saw the Middle East being covered by the news, there was always some kind of struggle whether it was about war, poverty, violent protests, or oppression. But after reading “A Thousand Splendid Suns”, I was hit with an epiphany that we, Americans, should care about voices like Hosseini! We should care more about women from all over the world, no matter what religion–what culture–what continent–what language they speak! They love, they cry, they suffer, and they want the things that we want too.
What’s My Favorite Part?
I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but one would have to just read the book to find out about this character and his role in “A Thousand Splendid Suns”! When I was first introduced to him, I simply brushed him aside as a side character–but no, he becomes more than just that throughout the story, and I’ll tell you this: Do NOT underestimate Tariq. His relationship to one of the main characters make it even more precious–and has served to really push me into thinking further deeply about the women in the Middle East.
Hint: Tariq is a character with a physical disability.
What’s My Least Favorite Part?
Personally, I felt as though Hosseini’s story-telling skills could rival many of the greatest works I’ve ever read in my life–but at the same time, it couldn’t. Unlike most voices, Hosseini’s was as real as it could get, and that is a special place in my bookshelf. There was nothing in the book that I could simply shrug off, because deep in my heart, I knew that he was bringing up real-life issues such as forced arranged marriages between older men and teenage or child-brides–poverty–war–death–rape–oppression–and just many horrible events taking place right now in the world that many of us are just too scared to confront. For most of us, it can make us squirm because we are either uncomfortable or in denial about these facts.
Though “A Thousand Splendid Suns” was based on fictional people, the events were inspired by real life experiences whether it was from someone Hosseini knew or it was often heard about and spoken about by Afghan women. Knowing this and sensing it from the overall book–that should be enough for readers to realize that even if we close our eyes, these events are still happening in other parts of the world. For the first time ever, a book was able to make me think about my privilege as an American and for that, I have to thank Hosseini.
There were multiple times when I had to put down the book and take the rest of the day off. This wasn’t because I was crying too much or it was just too painful for me to continue reading–this was because of how powerful the book was to me. It didn’t only break my heart, it made me question how Afghan women like Laila and Mariam were able to be so strong in their time when they were going through so much pain and loss.
Overall, I would highly recommend the book to anyone who is willing to read “A Thousand Splendid Suns” with a blank canvas, opened mind and who is looking to expand their mental horizons. This would also be a great suggestion to readers who are seeking strong female POC protagonists and curious minds who would like to read a book based on the Middle East. It is an excellent book, and I will look forward to reading more of Hosseini’s work!
Have you read any of Hosseini’s work before? Did you read “A Thousand Splendid Suns?” If so, comment below with your thoughts–or if you enjoyed reading this post, please “like” it!