Review of "A Thousand Splendid Suns" by Khaled Hosseini
"A Thousand Splendid Suns" is the second novel by acclaimed writer Khaled Hosseini. It is a novel that, much like his first novel "The Kite Runner" pulls the reader in and does not stop pulling until long after the novel ends. Hosseini's cleverness and insight into romantic relationships, friendships, Afghan culture and the complicated lives of women ring through on every page.
The novel follows two Afghan women, Mariam and Laila. In the first two parts, it tells two very different stories. The first story is that of Mariam, an illegitimate child whose father is insincere and whose mother is mentally abusive, but loving in her own way. Mariam's world is torn apart one day and she finds herself in a situation that many Afghan women find themselves in, though it is not the rule. For the sake of leaving the story a mystery for those who have not read it, the details will not be divulged here.
The second part tells the story of a well rounded, relatively well off, Laila, whose love for her best friend becomes the center of her world as war tears apart her family. Laila too has a day that destroys her life as she knows it and she comes to be a part of Mariam's life. From there, the two women struggle with animosity, guilt, regret and a deeply loving friendship that forms the heart of the "A Thousand Splendid Suns."
The way the story is written, it gives snippets of happiness, mixed with disillusionment, grief and despair, only to bring you back around to happiness again. The rare moments of joy the characters feel are made more intense by the sense of impending doom that hovers over much of the plot. Khaled skillfully makes his readers feel anxiety, hope and triumph for and with his characters. Every aspect of "A Thousand Splendid Suns" is skillfully done. He erects no cultural barriers between his readers and the Afghanistan of his novel, just as he did with "The Kite Runner." Several reviews will say that "A Thousand Splendid Suns" is the better novel. In truth, there is no comparing the two. They are both excellent stories in their own right.