Mariam is a bastard. Her mother was a housekeeper for a rich businessman in Herat, Afghanistan, until he impregnated and banished her. Mariam’s childhood ended abruptly when her mother hanged herself. When Mariam is married off (by her father) to Rasheed, a 40ish shoemaker in Kabul, hundreds of miles away. What conflict will that impose to their relationship and will Marriam endure the challenges of being married?
A Thousand Splendid Suns is set in Afghanistan from the early 1960s to the early 2000s. Mariam, a young girl in the 1960s, grows up outside Herat, a small city in Afghanistan. Mariam has complicated feelings about her parents: She lives with her spiteful and stubborn mother, Nana; while her father Jalil, a successful businessman, visits Mariam — his only illegitimate child — once a week. Mariam resents her limited place in Jalil’s life; she wants to live with him, his three wives, and her half-siblings in Herat. She makes her wishes known by asking Jalil to take her to see Pinocchio for her fifteenth birthday. Jalil reluctantly agrees, but then never shows up to take her to the film. Mariam walks to heart and finds Jalil’s house, but he doesn’t let her in, so she sleeps on the street. The next morning, Jalil’s chauffeur drives Mariam home where she finds that her mother has committed suicide. After her mother’s funeral, Mariam is taken to Jalil’s home. Jalil’s wives want nothing to do with Mariam, so they force him to let her marry Rasheed, a widowed shoemaker in Kabul. Mariam lives in fear of him, especially after numerous miscarriages. In 1987, the story switches to a neighbor, nine-year-old Laila, her playmate Tariq and her parents. The story follows Laila untill she is married. This story is spanning from the Soviets occupation to the Taliban control.
I felt that the story was weak in the area of translation with regards to the terms written in Pashto or Farsi. I would have preferred something like: pashto phrase (english translation), which would make it easier to understand.
The biggest appeal for me was Hosseini’s writing style, which is simple and easy to follow. The story picks up rapid momentum from the very beginning and shows little signs of slowing down all the way till the end. The story line hooks the reader early on and never let’s go. As Hosseini develops the few main characters in the story, he constantly moves back and forth between them, keeping the reader focused so as not to lose track of the plot.
“Like a compass needle that points north, a man’s accusation finger always finds a woman .”
“One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs. Or the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls.”