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A Thousand Splendid Suns sheds light on life in Afghanistan

In “A Thousand Splendid Suns,” a beautifully crafted book that mixes fairytale and truth, Khaled Hosseini tells the story of two women whose lives intertwine in mysterious ways. Although the differences between myself and the main characters in the book are vast, Hosseini made me relate to the story on a deep level. I couldn’t help my fingers from dancing around the page, excited to read the next sentence, the next page, the next chapter. I couldn’t get enough.

Set in Afghanistan, “A Thousand Splendid Suns” depicts the life of Mariam and Laila as they live the tremulous events that occurred between the 1960s and 2000s, including war, famine, heartache and suffering. Hosseini spares no detail when he talks about the hardships these women endured, and he won’t spare your heart just to give you a happily ever after. It’s not sugar-coated. But don’t worry, it’s not completely depressing, either.

From the beginning, we see Mariam as an innocent victim of tough love and a harsh environment. Since the age of five, her mother calls Mariam harami—which means bastard child—and Mariam does nothing about it. Eventually, she marries the man of her father’s dreams, a man who eventually turns into the man of Mariam’s nightmares. Mariam works herself to the bone her whole life, and I couldn’t stop rooting for her.

Hosseini paints a picture with his words that makes me feel like I am right there with Mariam as she sits outside her father’s mansion. I sit beside her in the red dust, brushing my tears angrily from my face, hoping that Mariam would be safe but knowing in my gut she never will be. As Mariam’s society and family reject her, it feels like I am being cast off alongside her.

Also feeling hopeless and desperate for retribution, Laila’s story unfolds, and we see a spitfire of a girl who eventually evolves into a sincere and nurturing woman. Consequently, she also becomes Mariam’s enemy. (You’re probably asking how I can cheer for two enemies but I guarantee that if you read the book you would too). Laila gives me a sense of hope. She shows us a bright side of Afghanistan, a side that says things will get better. The country may not all be guns, bombs and desperation. Laila herself struggles in her life, and for every heartache she feels, my whole body cries out, but her passion and enthusiasm for making life more endurable gives us a promise that being Afghan can see redemption as well.

As I walked with these two women through 384 pages, 51 chapters and 40 fictional years, my world of comprehension expanded from the United States to the Middle East. Hosseini presented me both sides of Afghanistan’s struggles, and I couldn’t see these people as enemies or some one-dimensional evil.

This book is for anyone who wants a true tale of Afghanistan and small snippets of what life has been for the past 50 years. “A Thousand Splendid Suns” will expand your world. And maybe you’ll read a perspective you never knew you needed.