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Book Review: Khaled Hosseini A Thousand Splendid Suns

From love and hope to violence and loss in war-torn Afghanistan, Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns is a powerful read. You won’t be able to put this book down, says our mother-daughter review team.

PARENT REVIEW | by Shelly Lewis

After reading The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, I anxiously awaited the arrival of his next work of literature. With his ability to engross an audience with flowing prose and engaging, almost tangible, plot lines, I knew that A Thousand Splendid Suns would undoubtedly be just as captivating.

It is very rare that modern literature captures history, imagery and thematic significance. But this novel certainly accomplishes all three of those aspects. The novel opens with a discussion between a mother and her daughter, Mariam, about the hardships of being a woman in Afghan society. This initial conversation instantly entices the reader, and the issue of social justice for women remains a theme throughout the plot as Hosseini vividly carries the reader through the trials of a polygamous marriage in Middle Eastern society.

The action begins in the early 1970s, when communist Russian forces try to take control of the Taliban. The families of the two female protagonists, Mariam and Laila, are significantly affected. They are forced to flee their homes in Kabul and relocate to Iran. Unfortunately, Laila’s family perishes in an explosion. When she awakes from a coma, she finds herself in a home with Rasheed and Mariam. She soon becomes Rasheed’s second wife, and like Laila, is forced to abide by his commands.

As the turbulent 1980s and 1990s pass, Mariam and Laila’s marriage to Rasheed becomes increasingly disrupted and uncomfortable. During this time, Laila and Mariam become closer and rely on each other to survive. Despite the chaos still reigning in Afghanistan at the conclusion of the novel, Hosseini unites the characters and brings the story to an enjoyable end.

A Thousand Splendid Suns is a phenomenal work, and I highly encourage teenagers and adults to read it for its important values and factual information. However, since several scenes in the book display graphic images and vulgar terminology, I would not recommend the book for young teens.

TEEN REVIEW | by Sara Lewis

Last month, I was given the opportunity to choose an independent reading book for school. After thoroughly enjoying Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner several years ago, I decided to read his most recent work, A Thousand Splendid Suns. While The Kite Runner follows the relationship between a father and son and the friendship between two young boys caught in the center of chaotic Afghanistan, A Thousand Splendid Suns recounts the emotional endeavors of two endearing girls as they grow into women who are culturally influenced by the discourse of Afghan society.

Alternating between the points of view of the two principal characters, Mariam and Laila, Hosseini cleverly unites both women’s lives through their similar misfortunes. The story begins in 1970. 15 year-old Mariam is forced to marry Rasheed, a much older shoemaker who lives in Kabul. He treats her with disrespect and forces her to abide by all of his rules. This includes wearing a face covering and remaining silent in the presence of other people. Laila, a much younger girl raised in Kabul by more liberal parents, also finds herself serving Rasheed as his second wife after the terror in Afghanistan results in a terrible family tragedy. Together, Laila and Mariam cook, clean, cover their bodies and faces and rely on the moral support of each other to survive in such an imbalanced polygamy. The women form an indestructible camaraderie, despite their differing upbringings and views on the governmental discourse.

Housseini’s vivid descriptions of war-torn Afghanistan provoke frustration, anger and curiosity in the reader. He also gives brilliant insight into the harsh inequality of women’s rights in the Middle East through the first-person accounts of Laila and Mariam. While The Kite Runner was truly an incredible work of fiction, A Thousand Splendid Suns delves more deeply into the emotional and controversial aspects of society. Through strength, friendship, perseverance and love, Hosseini tells the ultimate tale of survival.

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