Khalid Hosseini has the quality that can pull any heart’s strings. His first novel “The Kite Runner” satisfied the readers and makes them fall in love with his writing.  It is not too hard to understand why “The Kite Runner” (2003) became such a huge best seller. The Novel initially got its popularity in book reading groups and writing conventions. The novel gave an deep-seated sight at Afghanistan and the difficulties of life in there, but it also reflects the author’s writing style in a very “old-fashioned” way. The art of storytelling is sharply drawn with melodramatic plotlines and characters which will instantly transfer you on the streets of Afghanistan.

The Story Line

“A Thousand Splendid Suns” is set in Afghanistan in between the early 1960s to the early 2000s. The storyline revolves around a young girl Mariam in the 1960s, grows up outside Herat, a small city in Afghanistan. Mariam seem to have complicated and difficulties understanding her parents, with a spiteful and egoistic mother, Nana. Her father Jalil is a successful businessman often visits her daughter, Mariam – his only illegitimate child – once a week. Mariam desires to live with her father, his other three wives and half-sibilings in Herat. She makes her wishes and asks Jalil to take her to see Pinocchio for her 15th Birthday. Jalil unwillingly agrees, but never shows up. Mariam walks to Jalil’s house, but he doesn’t let her in. She then sleeps on the street. The next morning Jalil’s driver drives Mariam home just to find out her mother has committed suicide.

As a devastated child, Mariam becomes alone. Over the years, she was constantly reminded by her mother that she was not supposed to be born, she was a mistake. Mariam’s confusions grew as a kid. She kept on dreaming about going to school. She wants to be accepted but she never learnt to stand up for herself or fight for her freedom.

The Tragedies

After her mother’s tragic death Mariam is taken to Jalil’s home after her mother’s funeral. The other wives of Jalil want nothing from Jalil’s daughter, so they forcefully marry her to Rasheed, a widowed shoemaker of Kabul. Mariam becomes a victim of abuse, both physical and verbal. After several miscarriages it becomes quite clear that Rasheed is only using Mariam to replace the son he lost years ago.

The Strong-Headed Laila

Then comes Laila, another major character of the story. She is portrayed as a strong-headed girl. Her father was a modern man. He encourages her to get an education and always stand up for herself. He calls Laila the kind of woman Afghanistan will need, because she is brave and kind. Laila’s story also touches a lot of taboos such as ‘premarital sex’ and ‘indifference towards the girl child in the family.’ The story beautifully amalgamates in war and its effects through the characters.

The Afghani war against the Soviets disrupts Laila’s teenage and both her brothers leave for the war. Laila seeks comfort from her best friend, Tariq, a boy older than her. Just before Laila reaches adolescence, her parents’ receive news that both of their sons have been killed. A few years later, war reaches Kabul and bombing on the city becomes regular. By now, Tariq and Laila are teenagers and in love. As Tariq tells Laila that he and his family are fleeing to Pakistan, the couple makes love for the first time. A few days later, Laila’s parents decide to leave Afghanistan as well, but as they are packing a rocket hits their house, killing Laila’s parents and wounding her.

Rasheed and Mariam helps Laila recover from her wounds, where a stranger Abdul Sharif  comes and informes her that Tariq has died. Laila also finds out that she is pregnant with Tariq’s child. Laila agrees to marry Rasheed. Mariam gets deeply hurt and threatened by Laila’s presence and during this period, Laila gives birth to Aziza, her daughter and then a son, Zalmai after a few years of abuse and sadness. Tariq suddenly returns back, adding a shock to Laila.

Mariam and Laila realize that it was Rasheed who hired the stranger Abdul Sharif – who informed about the death of Tariq – to tell about the untrue and untimely death of Tariq, so she would not run away.  When Rasheed finds out that Tariq has returned, he abuses Laila, and Mariam kills Rasheed with a shovel.  Mariam then turns herself over to the Taliban in an effort to clear the way for Laila to find sanctuary for herself and her children in Pakistan with Tariq.

The Ending

In Pakistan, Tariq and Laila marry and finally begin the life they dreamed of so many years ago. The couple enjoyed a happy life, but following the US invasion their dreams overshadowed. Following the events, when the conditions improve, Laila insists to move back to Kabul so they can help rebuild their city. They stop by Herat and find out about Mariam’s execution in grief! In Kabul, Laila serves as a school teacher at an orphanage. When Laila becomes pregnant, she decides that if she has a girl, she’ll name her “Mariam.”

The strong plot gave out a grand feel to this whole novel. The events after events, where Mariam’s mother commits suicide, her father’s turns cold towards her, being married off too quickly and enduring pain of back to back miscarriages and abuse.  The story depicts pain and each and every character was deeply resonated within the readers. It explores teh relationship between two women and their courage to stay strong in an abusive, unfair world. And to have faith that miracles do happen! Khalid Hosseini cleverly portrayed the “Strong women” narrative within the lines of “Cultural impairment” gave this whole novel a lively feeling!


If you like this review you can also check these

– BOOK REVIEW: The Alchemist By Paolo Coelho 

– BOOK REVIEW: A Thousand Splendid Suns By Khalid Husseini 

– BOOK REVIEW: The Lost Symbol By Dan Brown

Goodreads Rating 4.4/5