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  A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Review by: Austine S.
Georgia, Grade 10

It is set in Afghanistan.

Most Western people do not realize the hardships women in Afghanistan face. I didn’t, until I read A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. Novelist Hosseini describes the story of two women born in different generations in the midst of the struggle between the Mujahideen and Afghanistan communists brought together because of the war. Hosseini tells the story of the town of Kabul and how the Afghani people react to the war from the viewpoint of one woman at a time. He also describes their private life under the control of their abusive husband.

The first character, Mariam, is introduced in the very first paragraph as a harami, or illegitimate child, in the city of Herat. After her mother died, her father wanted nothing to do with her, and under the persuasion of his other three wives, married Mariam to Rasheed, a man twice her age who lived in the city of Kabul. Mariam is at first a quiet individual and feels she has no control over her life. She had quickly learned her position in society as a harami that deserved no respect and so expected no respect from anyone.

Laila, unlike Mariam, is born twenty years later in Kabul, right across the street from Mariam and Rasheed. She grows up beautiful and surrounded by love from her father and best friend, Tariq. Her father is an open-minded man who understands the importance of Laila gaining a good education, especially as she is a woman. Laila is my favorite character because she is strong-willed and intelligent, more like a Western woman than any other I came into contact with reading this book. Laila’s luck runs out when a bomb strikes her house, killing her mother and father, leaving her an orphan.

Laila sustained many injuries from the blast, and Rasheed and Mariam took her into their household to take care of her while she healed. Believing she has no other choice as a woman under the laws of the Taliban, she agrees to marry Rasheed. Mariam at first resents Laila, seeing her as a rival, but as soon as Laila gives birth to a baby, Mariam forges a tight bond with Laila and becomes a second mother to the baby. Together, the two women endure abuse from Rasheed, which is justifiable by Islamic law.

The over-arching theme in this book is that the mistreatment of women in the patriarchal society of Afghanistan never changes no matter who the ruling party is, the age of the woman, or what is going on in the outside world. This book shows everything the women go through, leaving nothing out. This makes the book more life-like and believable, invoking sympathy in the reader.

Although I was not very impressed with the book, as I prefer more of an action or adventure story, it was very interesting and horrifying to see the trials some women face in their lives under a male-dominated society. Hosseini’s descriptions are astounding, and the amount of detail he puts into his writing is extraordinary; I couldn’t stop reading the book until the end. If you want to know how Laila and Mariam escape from the oppression they faced under Rasheed’s authority, you’ll have to read A Thousand Splendid Suns.

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