One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs,
Or the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls.
While I was reading The Kite Runner, I wondered how much pain the author himself had to go through in his life to write this story? Its said that you can’t understand the pain of another human if you have not been through the same situation yourself. Each and every word of The Kite Runner made me realize how much pain and anger must be pent up inside the author. And then I read “A Thousand Splendid Suns”. The Kite Runner was not a book and neither is A Thousand Splendid Suns. They are outlets, vents to tell the world about what happened to the Nation which was once so prosperous and happy. They are outlets for people to know the story of a nation destroyed by its own people.
The story revolves around Mariam and Laila. Mariam is an unwanted child born out of wedlock and lives with her mother in the outskirts of Herat in Afghanistan. Her wealthy father visits her at times. When Mariam is 15 she visits her father’s home against everyone’s wishes. She ends up being married to Rasheed, a widower in Kabul who expects a son from her. When she fails to deliver a baby, she is faced with verbal and physical abuses. Laila, on the other hand, is the daughter of a High school teacher. She had two brothers who are killed in the fighting against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Laila is in love with Tariq, her childhood friend. Things take a bad turn when the civil war comes to Kabul after the victory of the Mujahideen and Tariq leaves Kabul with his parents and Laila is left pregnant and an orphan after her parents are killed in a rocket attack. She lands up in Rasheed’s house and agrees to marry Rasheed for the sake of the child. Mariam is now in Rasheed’s house for more than a decade now and resents Laila but fate has something else in store for the two women.
The most beautiful part of this book is the way the relationship develops between Mariam and Laila. By the time Laila becomes a part of the household, Mariam has endured too much at the hands of Rasheed to bear his second wife. Soon after Laila gives birth to Tariq’s daughter, both the women realise that they are sailing in the same boat. The book is also a story of a nation in transition. It encompasses the political upheavals and what the people went through when the Russians finally left. It tells the story of a beautiful dream which turned into a nightmare. If Hassan was the unforgettable character in The Kite Runner, then Mariam’s doleful life will leave a lump in your throat in this book. And there was one feeling that never left me while I read the book – This could have happened to someone…
Comparisons with Khaled’s earlier book is inevitable and I agree that A Thousand Splendid Suns does not have those kind of twists and turns but it has the same quality which The Kite Runner had. It turns you into a more compassionate, a more understanding and a more humane human. It makes you understand that you are blessed in every sense. And, it makes you understand that there are people out there who deserve a life similar to yours.
Rating – 4.5/5
Author – Khaled Hosseini