Khaled Hosseini’s ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’, first published in 2007 is one of those novels which will have you live almost a lifetime with them, only in this case, you live two at once.
The novel keeps shifting brilliantly between the narratives of two women, with whom we spend an entire lifetime. Hosseini creates a universe in the novel which fits our Mariam and Laila amidst the political unrest in Afghanistan. We watch both of our protagonists grow up right in front of our eyes, we see their struggle, agony and only keep wishing that it will be better for them someday.
We are introduced first to Mariam whose childhood is lost in misfortunes in her broken family. Reading her series of tribulations, made me feel helpless in my consistent urge to somehow help her. Although these characters are fictional, their political and social background stems from reality. Having said that, Mariam’s story though created out of Hosseini’s deft imagination, may just be the reality for someone. She grows up in her Kolba (a mud hut or a shack) with Nana and occasional visits from her father Jalil, whose gifts warm Mariam’s heart just the way he does until she realizes that his gifts are nothing more than relics of his guilt. Adversity strikes again and Mariam, who is now fifteen is sent to Kabul, far away from her hometown after her marriage with Rasheed who is thirty years older than her.
Hosseini now crafts Laila’s world with her seemingly happy family. Laila’s father unlike Mariam’s has been the most affectionate to her in her house. His thoughts and beliefs grow their way into Laila’s. Although their stories run parallel, Hosseini does not compromise on either of their backgrounds. We see Laila develop just the way we did with Mariam. Just when I felt at peace and relieved with Laila and her narrative, just then catastrophe struck again as Laila joins Mariam’s household which is right across the street.
Laila and Mariam’s stories which have been parallel so far, now finally intersect and their companionship is what will get them through this unrest not only in their house but also in their neighbourhood and Afghanistan at large. Their companionship overtime blossoms into an unthinkably strong friendship. This bond becomes their greatest source of strength and in more ways than one, ours as well. We see them growing up their children and along with them, themselves. The climax of this novel feels more like a catharsis to most of us, despite its violent nature. As we step closer to the end of this novel, we see how tenacious their friendship really is. This friendship which has endured an uncountable list of miseries, leaves you wanting more, especially what becomes of their bond towards the end of the novel.
Apart from the explicit story of our two protagonists, this novel implicitly informs you about the extreme political unrest in the country where this novel takes place. An almost day to day account of our protagonists comes along with an inevitable portrayal of the constant violence, the sounds of gun-fires, episodes of bombings inform you of the countless lives in Afghanistan who have been facing these issues on a day-to-day basis. Hosseini also mentions an inescapable reality for women; the in length discussions of domestic violence which though haunting, bear words of truth in them. Reading this novel, made me realize that there are a lot of battles which are yet to be fought and some begin right at home for some of us.
Towards the end, there is hope. Hope for a better tomorrow, a better future for Afghanistan at large.
This novel will share a piece of your heart and will make a home out of it. I’d definitely recommend reading it!