“And the past held only this wisdom: that love was a damaging mistake, and its accomplice, hope, a treacherous illusion. And whenever those twin poisonous flowers began to sprout in the parched land of that field, Mariam uprooted them. She uprooted them and ditched them before they took hold.”
After already having read The Kite Runner by the same author, I had especially high expectations when I got my hands on a copy of A Thousand Splendid Suns. Being able to take peek inside the life of a person from a different culture fascinates me, especially when the culture is quite different from my own. A Thousand Splendid Suns tells the story of two Afghan women living their lives in the ever changing Afghanistan of the last thirty years. Through the eyes of Laila and Mariam we see the situation Afghanistan change from the Soviet invasion to the Taliban and post-Taliban period. It is a tale of two women born a generation apart, but brought together by fate, war and faith.
Mariam, harami (unwanted child), was born and raised in banishment, and forced to move her hometown and marry a much older man, Rasheed, after her mother committed suicide. There she is unable to give birth to a child; the most important wish of her husband, who then starts treating her like a house slave. Laila, fifteen years younger and raised under much different circumstances, was left alone after a bomb destroys her home and kills her parents. She was living in the same street as Mariam, and she and her husband took Laila in to recover from the shock. Laila was deeply in love AND pregnant with her childhood friend Tariq, but cruel Rasheed forced her to marry him by telling her that Tariq had died while trying to escape the violence in the city. Since being pregnant as a single girl is a terrible sin in the eyes of the Afghanistan society, she decided to marry him and make him believe the child is his.
Rasheed is happy, until he finds out the kid is a girl. He goes from treating her like a princess to the same treatment Mariam is suffering from. When she finally gets pregnant and gives birth to a boy, things don’t change to much for the three women in his house. The situation in Afghanistan changes though, and things become really dangerous. They were forced to leave their daughter in a foster home… But when Tariq suddenly returns to the city looking for Laila, things change drastically and Mariam killed Rasheed while he was attacking Laila. Mariam decided to stay at their house and sacrifice herself so Laila and their children can flee the country. And that is when Tariq and Laila can finally start their life together…
A Thousand Splendid Suns is a moving story about three decades of Afghan history, an unlikely friendship, and an indestructible love; all brought together by faith. It is beautifully written and a definite must read!