Book Review: A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini


Centered in war-torn Afghanistan, A Thousand Splendid Suns is the heart-wrenching tale of Mariam and Laila as they face the daunting and unprecedented circumstances of war and female oppression.  

Mariam is only 15 when she is forced to marry Rasheed, a man 20 years older than her. Sent to Kabul, she dedicates her life to being the ‘perfect’ wife. Nearly two decades later, the paths of Laila and Mariam converge. Laila is a free-spirited teenager with a bustling passion for knowledge. When the war in Afghanistan escalates, Laila is orphaned. She’s also pregnant with a child whose father is dead. Society’s unwillingness to let women earn and the taboo around having a child before marriage compels Laila to marry Rasheed (polygamy is legal in Afghanistan). In the backdrop of Rasheed’s mistreatment of both Marian and Laila, they start to develop a bond like that of a mother and child. With the Taliban reducing women’s rights to almost none and Rasheed’s scanty income, life becomes a struggle against starvation and fear. However, the need to protect their family drives them to act in unexpected ways. Their bravery, unity, and sacrifice are truly inspiring. 

Hosseini communicates the life of women grappling in a male-dominated society, startling heroism, and the brutality of war with painful ease. While the story does deal with war, it never digresses from the stories of Mariam and Laila, focusing solely on their emotions and struggles. It talks about two women struggling against all odds, whether it is an abusive husband or the Taliban taking over. The uncertainty, viciousness, and fear along with sisterhood and love despite harsh circumstances are truly the best part of this book. 

There were many times when I was overwhelmed and had to put the book down for a few minutes because of the cruelty and grief that the book communicated, but at the same time, I had this urge to know what would happen next because the book was so unpredictable. The book is thought-provoking and really gives a voice to the people of Afghanistan.