Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Behind the Burqa: On Hosseni's A Thousand Splendid Suns

A Thousand Splendid SunsA Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A friend of mine lent this book to me several months ago. It remained on my shelf for quite a while. I have to be honest. I didn't want to read about Afghanistan. But this same friend of mine told me a story from And The Mountains Echoed which left me in tears. Remember, she was telling me a secondhand fairy tale and the context for it. But even then, I was crying (actually we were both tearing up). When I told my husband the same story, my voice was cracking and tears were rolling down my cheeks involuntarily. If this secondhand tale was powerful enough to make me cry on recounting it...what more an entire novel? So that was when I plunged into A Thousand Splendid Suns. I was not disappointed.

Yes, it's about Afghanistan. But more than Afghanistan, it's about two women, Mariam and Laila. It's about two women who are brave and strong and unfortunately married to the same horrible man, Rasheed. It's about what two women will do for each other despite all the circumstances. It's about two particular women behind the burqa. It's about child brides and poverty. But it's also about the beauty of friendship and the redeeming qualities of love.

I read another review about how one-sided Hosseini is: Mariam and Laila can only do good and Rasheed can only do wrong. But the thing is...there are such men in this world. There is no explaining their cruelty. There is no explaining the cruelty of wars (and yet they go on). I loved the story telling and the characters. I loved all the little nuances that invests the reader in each character even if some of them are difficult to love. I didn't mind the Afghan words and dialects that were left in, it gives the narrative a sense of place, a sense of character.

There is a breathtaking scene in the book about the Buddhas of Bamiyan in the story. Don't miss it. It gives Afghanistan more cultural history and perspective. It was once a land where Buddhist monks lived (when it was part of the Silk Road). I didn't know that about Afghanistan. All I know of Afghanistan is war and the Taliban. How ignorant I am.

I'm glad I read this book.

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