I recently finished reading Khaled Hosseini’s novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns. A friend recommended the book to me a couple of months back, but I honestly can’t remember who it was! Part of that forgetfulness is because it took so long for the book to become available through my local library. Anyway: I had previously read another book by Hosseini, The Kite Runner, and I enjoyed it. So I was excited to give this one a try. It describes the day-to-day experience of people living in Afghanistan over the last few decades of war and turmoil. And I’ve been wanting to better understand that part of the world. So it felt like a special surprise when I was informed that the book was available, right around the start of a little Thanksgiving Break.
It was a compelling read. The primary action follows two women in Afghanistan. The first grows up in a rural area, the illegitimate daughter of a local business man. The second grows up in Kabul in a more traditional family. But their lives become intertwined in interesting, unexpected ways (I won’t spoil the story). And through all of the political upheaval — everything from the Soviet invasion, to the Taliban takeover, to the American War on Terror — they figure out ways to survive. And even to contribute to society in constructive ways.
I think the book helped me to realize the special burden carried by women and children in places like Afghanistan. For years at a time, women in Kabul were essentially kept on house arrest. So, if the men in their lives were not kind or considerate, they had no recourse. They couldn’t speak up for themselves. They couldn’t travel on their own. And they couldn’t even manage their home life in ways that were agreeable to them. There’s a lot of pain in the story of A Thousand Splendid Suns (which is apparently a historical, poetic reference to Kabul). But there’s also hope.
Hosseini is an excellent storyteller. His characters, his settings, and his plot structure are all top-tier. His writing makes me want to visit Afghanistan, even with all of its challenges. And this book made me cheer for the Afghan people, even in all their disparate complexity. So, in any event, I’m very glad I got the opportunity to read A Thousand Splendid Suns. And I highly recommend it to anyone looking for something to read in the upcoming winter reading season.