How I have eagerly awaited this book....it was bound to be a disappointment. But it wasn't! And whilst this book doesn't rate as highly on my favourites of all time list as The Kite Runner, it still makes it on to the list (top 25 maybe).
TKR tells the story of men in Afghanistan and A Thousand Splendid Suns tells the story of the women: the mothers, the daughters, the wives, and the friendships.
I found this book a bit more predictable than TKR. Maybe I am more familiar with the plight of women in Afghanistan because it has been covered more in the media. Or maybe because I am a woman, I've been more interested and therefore read and listened better. The plight of the men in TKR was a completely foreign notion to me. But the degree of beating and subservience of the women was astonishing. I cannot even begin to imagine having no control over your life. What they must endure would kill me in 5 minutes flat.
My heart broke for these women. The idea that your father could be killed and because there was no man in your family to walk you to the market, you simply couldn't go breaks my heart. Or that you could be married off to a man 30 years older than you and this was OK because you needed to eat. Or be abandoned by a father simply because you were an embarrassment and he would rather see you sleep on a street outside of his house. The lack of identity and sexuality in Miriam after her marriage is unbelievable.
When I first started reading I was frustrated because the characters seemed so shallow. But as the story unfolds, you discover the depth and strength of the characters, not unlike how friendships and relationships develop. The relationship between Laila and Mariam is beautiful. They literally save each other every single day from complete and total despair.
There are a few plot surprises which I don't want to give away but much like TKR I couldn't put the book down. And Hosseini is a master at conveying the details of physical space. I could picture in my mind's eye every place these people walked.
Afghanistan has all but disappeared from the headlines. And these people (both men and women) still live in horrific conditions both physically, mentally, and spiritually. Hosseini does a great job of informing the world about the plight of his people.
I encourage everyone to read this book! And if you haven't read TKR, start reading it TODAY!