Monday, March 2, 2009

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini (reviewed by Laura Craner)

If you are like me (which you must be since you read this blog! *wink*), then you have probably heard of A Thousand Splendid Suns and wondered if it was a book you would like. After all, it's critically acclaimed and most readers are so passionate about it they have a hard time keeping their enthusiasm in check. But, it's about Afghanistan and, well, has some pretty intense thematic issues. How's a reader to know? I finally read it and decided to review it here so you all can make a more informed decision.

Let's get my bias out of the way first: I LOVED this book. Even though I had spent the day with all three my kids fighting the crowds at the zoo free day I stayed up all night reading it. I cried at the end because I had no words to describe how much it moved me. It's that good. The style is spare and elegant and straightforward--Hosseini puts on no airs; every word is artfully chosen and necessary--making it easy to read. The characters are complicated and human, which means they are full of hopes and dreams as well as frustrations and foibles.

The story follows two women, Mariam and Laila, and their husband, Rasheed (yes, Islam allows polygamy, although I don't think that is the technical name for them), as they struggle through the last thirty years of Afghanistan's history. It follows them through the Soviet period, the Taliban, 9/11 and the subsequent invasion, and ends with the current rebuilding period. Mariam and Laila run into a lot of trouble--multiple miscarriages, bombings, deaths of loved ones, and terrible abuse--but the two women have such strength of character that the book never descends into the depressing muck that is so common in modern literary fiction. Oh, and there is sex. But none of it is nasty or gratuitous or pornographic. What is included is necessary to the story. As a reader you will undoubtedly disagree with some of the choices the women make, most likely the one that lands Mariam in jail. There are parts where you will feel sad and parts where you will feel angry, but the overall feel of the book is not sad and angry. It is hopeful and compassionate and beautiful.

This book may not be for everyone because of its challenging nature, but I think most people will be glad they read it. I certainly was.

1 comment:

Heather B. Moore said...

This book was great. I read it awhile ago, but I remember loving the way it portrayed the women and their struggles in such a tough lifestyle.