A Thousand Splendid Suns

Anyone who read and came to identify with “The Kite Runner”, Hosseini’s first, should be more than satisfied with this follow-up. Hosseini excels at telling a certain kind of story, in which events like violence, misery and abuse that may seem unbearable are made readable. Fueled by the same amazing instinct for captivating storytelling that made “The Kite Runner” a beloved classic, “A Thousand Splendid Suns” is at once an incredible chronicle of thirty years of Afghan history and a deeply moving story of family, friendships and beyond.

Hosseini doesn’t emphasize the horrors his characters live through, but something about his direct, explanatory style and the sense that you are moving towards a redemptive ending makes the whole narrative, for all its tragedies, slip down rather easily. His style is deceptively simple and clear, the characters drawn deftly and swiftly, his themes elemental and huge.

Hosseini tells the stories of Laila and Mariam, first individually and then about their lives together, living through nightmares unimaginable to most people. Both have loves in their life and both are torn apart from those loves. Both have severe tragedy in their lives, yet continue as strong human beings. Their friendship is amazing and the story evokes extreme emotions more than once.

Born a generation apart and with very different ideas about love and family, Mariam and Laila are two women brought jarringly together by war, by loss and by fate. As they endure the ever escalating dangers around them- in their home as well as in the streets of Kabul- they come to form a bond that makes them both sisters as well as mother-daughter to each other, and that will ultimately alter the course not just of their own lives, but of the next generation. With heart-wrenching power and suspense, Hosseini shows how a woman’s love for her family can move her to shocking and heroic acts of self-sacrifice, and that in the end it is love, or even the memory of love, that is often the key to survival.

Miriam and Laila are a literary microcosm of the bleak, poor existences that Afghan women in Kabul have lived for the past half century. Afghanistan, once a proud civilization, is now in a post-apocalyptic dark age, a brutal, Orwellian nightmare where progress is dead and feudalism reigns. The ground is symbolically dry and dusty, the economy lean, and the common people are fearfully creeping along in the shadows of the bigger players.

But the book also speaks of beautiful things such as true love, vibrant nature, eternal hope and promises kept. Laila develops profound and lasting love for her childhood friend, Tariq, a confidant, first lover and the secret father of her child. The natural world is a refuge, a sanctuary with places of growth, silences and redemption. Every character has a hope of a better life, a dream of another time or place. Old promises are fulfilled.

This severe story is a potent reminder that if people accept injustices forced onto one segment of their society, they run the risk of imploding and accommodating abuse of the whole population.
A haunting, heartbreaking, compelling story of an unforgiving time, an unlikely friendship, and an indestructible love!

Abhimanyu Gahlaut