Monday, January 21, 2008

A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS by Khaled Hosseini (2007)

Hosseini continues to explore the troubled territory of Afghanistan throughout the past 30 years from the Russian occupation through the Taliban and post-Taliban rule in this second novel that follows on the heels of his international bestseller THE KITE RUNNER.

In A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS, every page resonates with loss: loss experienced and loss anticipated. We begin to understand the violence and the struggle to survive in a war-torn country through the stories of generations that focus on the lives of co-wives Mariam and Laila, both victims of circumstance. Mariam is culturally ostracized because she was born a bastard to her wealthy and influential father Jalil who, although he keeps several wives, refuses to marry Mariam's mother, his mistress.

Laila, is a 14-year-old neighbour to the adult Mariam in Kabul who is pulled from the rubble of a neighborhood bombing by Mariam's much older husband Rasheed. Rasheed decides to take Laila on as his second wife because Mariam has been unable to carry any pregnancy to term and he is shamed by not having any children. Laila's life with Rasheed is rife with abuse, both verbal and physical. In fact, the visceral way in which Hosseini writes those repeated scenes of domestic abuse, witnessed by small children, is extremely upsetting. And, that is entirely the point. No one is safe--not even at home.

At the height of the Afghani refugee exodus, more than 8 million were living outside of Afghanistan. Hosseini, himself born in Kabul, emigrated to the US in 1980. In 2006, he was appointed UN Special Envoy to the UN Refugee Agency. He writes that today over 2 million Afghanis who were forced out of their homes continue to live in Pakistan. If you want to learn more about their plight, visit

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