A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS
Khaled Hosseini

 


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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.

January 2008

 

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