TITLE: A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS
AUTHOR: KHALED HOSSEINI
Details: June read for bookclub
This is a heartbreaking yet beautiful and very powerful story. Spanning thirty years the story is set in Afghanistan and takes us from before the Soviet occupation, through those years, the Taliban reign and the post Taliban rebuilding of something vaguely resembling normal life, all as experienced by two women.
Mariam is the illegitimate daughter of a rich man who already has three wives and a poor, servant woman. Although her father provides for her and visits her, he won't officially acknowledge her. She's only a teenager when her mother kills herself and Mariam finds herself quickly married of to an older man who takes her from everything she knows to Kabul where he soon proves himself a bully and abusive, especially after Mariam suffers several miscarriages.
Laila is about twenty years younger than Mariam and has grown up in Kabul in an atmosphere that encouraged her to be educated and independent. Her best friend and later first love is Tariq who abandons her to flee the country with his parents just as they are getting really close.
When a mortar kills both her parents, Laila is taken in by Mariam's husband. Knowing herself to be pregnant and believing that Tariq is death, she agrees to become his second wife.
At first Mariam deeply resents the young, beautiful and fertile intruder, but soon the abuse inflicted on both of them turns hostility into a deep friendship, making the two women a force to be reckoned with, despite repression both inside their home and in the society outside.
This book was such an eye opener for me. I like to think that I'm well informed and have a good idea of what's going on in the world. However, this book really showed me what life in an extremist (Muslim) country is like for the whole population, but especially for the women. I can't even begin to imagine what it must be like to try and live under circumstances as described in this book. And although I'd love to think that the events as described in this book are extreme, I doubt that that is the case.
I'm filled with admiration for Hosseini who managed to describe these women, their lives, emotions and thoughts in such a way that they came to live for me.
I'm in awe of this book and know that its story will stay with me for a long time.