Riverhead Hardcover, May 2007
Reviewed by Barbara Fielding
A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS takes readers into the hidden world of Afghan
women. Miriam, the illegitimate daughter of a wealthy businessman from
Herat, is forced to live in shack on the outskirts of town. She is the
child of her father's former housekeeper, a bitter, tormented woman who
suffers from epilepsy. Miriam thrives on the times her father comes to
visit bearing small gifts for her. Despite her mother's cruel taunts and
their barren existence, she longs for a different future than the one her
mother predicts for her. On her fifteenth birthday Miriam makes a rash
decision that changes her circumstances forever.
She finds herself married to Rasheed, a brute of a husband, and moved away
from the only life she has ever known. Throughout her marriage Miriam is
subjected to meanness, scorn and ridicule. Then the beautiful young Laila
enters the household as the second wife. The changes Laila introduces into
Miriam's life bring a mixture of pain and unexpected joy.
Best selling writer Khaled Hosseini pulls back the burka veil for readers.
In THE KITE RUNNER he used his storytelling skills to show us the
friendship of two young boys. With this story we see the complicated
relationship that exists between two wives in a plural marriage.
Miriam's story is harsh and poignant. Her stark emotional drama and deep
longings are set against the backdrop of changes in Afghanistan. Her story
begins ten years before the Taliban comes into power, when Afghan was
ruled by a monarchy, and follows through the war with Russia, the
Mujahidin civil wars and the Taliban rule. It shows the impact of her
country's violent history on her family. The ending is unexpected and
lacks the redemption and hopeful ending of THE KITE RUNNER. It depicts a
brutal life and there are several disturbing scenes but there is beauty in
the writing. The story unfolds slowly and Hosseini will make you long for
the characters to survive their heartbreaking journey. In the end it is
difficult to accept that Miriam's story may be an accurate and realistic
reflection of true life for women in Afghanistan.
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