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A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
While reading The Kite Runner, I could not stop marveling at the sheer impact that the story had on me. While I had read countless emotional novels, never had I felt so depressed because of a certain character’s plight. In retrospect, I suppose the novel had such a tremendous effect on me because I knew that what I was reading as fiction was real for thousands of people. But to give the entire credit to that factor would be wrong. The effect of the novel also has to be attributed to the author’s terrific storytelling capability; The way he wrote that novel was indescribably captivating. After finishing it, I thought it would not get better than this. And then along came A Thousand Splendid Suns.
Here is the back cover summary, before I begin with the review-
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 and 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.
To begin with, I loved the cover, the title and the blurb. These are the things that draw a potential reader towards a novel, along with the author’s previous ventures. The author’s previous venture in this case was terrific, and coupled with the cover, title and blurb, I knew the novel would be fantastic. What I hadn’t expected, however, was that the novel would go even beyond that.
The story is very realistic, and I do not think that there has ever been a novel where I have cried so much. I just could not put it down; I had to know what was going to happen next.
The protagonists, Mariam and Laila, were both from different backgrounds, and yet, the author managed to develop both the characters amazingly well.
Mariam was uneducated, with an absent father and a mother suffering from what was probably epilepsy or a disease of the same kind, although it has not been mentioned by name in the book. She was born out of wedlock, and although she had a prominent father, she was still not at par with his other children. I just couldn’t understand how a father could marry his own daughter off to a man so much older than her, and yet, I am not that naïve that I do not know that it happens everyday in countries like Afghanistan. It was heart breaking to read about what happened to her.
Laila was educated and had a liberal father who was broad minded and intelligent enough to consider his daughter to be equal to the sons he lost in war. He made sure she got a decent education, and he encouraged her just as much as he would encourage a son. It was so nice to read about him, and take some condolence in the fact that there are people like him in places where a daughter is considered to be a burden.
When Laila lost her parents at a time when she and her family were all so near prosperity, I could barely read through my tears.
So, as you can see, both the characters are drastically different, and yet, the author made them both come alive in the pages of the book. Very well done, sir!
The other characters are just as real, although, in some cases, brutally cruel. The voices of all the characters is very well developed, and needless to say, I loved it.
Adding to all these things was a fact that I realized through the novel. The realization that I am so blessed as to have been born in a home where my parents care about me, where I know that I have some basic rights. It is true that at some point during the novel, I felt really shallow about my problems. I mean, what is homework compared to this? But that didn’t prevent me from understanding and appreciating the phrase, that even at my worst, I am better than many people at their best. And I cannot describe how incredibly lucky I felt.
All in all, I loved A Thousand Splendid Suns. Another masterpiece by the author, after the spectacular- The Kite Runner.