Book Review: A Thousand Splendid Suns

I recently read “A Thousand Splendid Suns” by Khaled Hosseini, the author of “The Kite Runner.” I’ve read both works, and I think that “A Thousand Splendid Suns” may well be my favorite. It’s truly hard to say.

The story centers on two women in Afghanistan, and stretches the last thirty years. Miriam is a “harami,” illegitmate daughter of a cinema owner in the small town of Herat. She grows up with her mother in a small kolba, but delights in the visits from her father. She enjoys them so much that she eventually tries to go into Herat to find her father, as she has never visited his home.

I won’t give away the plot, but Miriam moves to Kabul, and becomes the wife of Rasheed, a shoe maker and leather worker. Rasheed’s first wife and son died, and there is a great sense of sadness surrounding this couple.

Later, we meet Laila, and her childhood friend, a boy named Tariq. Laila lives on the same street as Miriam and Rasheed, yet the families don’t interact much early in the story.

War overtakes Afghanistan, and the story changes drastically. While the story had not been altogether peaceful before the war (there is much abuse in this story), the war divides families, makes people take actions they would never have done in “normal” circumstances.

Much like in “The Kite Runner,” Hosseini paints vivid, stirring images for the reader. Both of the physical landscape, but also of people’s inner worlds. We learn what moves them. We learn about love and friendship in new ways. Friends and family die, and new bonds are formed. Grief beyond that which I have known in this lifetime, plays out for some characters across a matter of moments.

What moved me the most was the friendship of Laila and Miriam. It is unexpected, and a relationship that was angst-ridden at first; these two women learn to love and respect each other in a difficult time and difficult place. Yet, in time they come to appreciate one another.

Are there any books you’ve read recently that moved you?