A Thousand Splendid Suns
This is one of the most touching and inspiring books I have read, ever. Khaled Hosseini’s story follows the inter-tangled lives of two Afghan women (one born in the years before the Soviet invasion, the other during that conflict) who live through the Soviet invasion, and then through the horrors of Taliban rule, and emerge in the post 9/11, US invasion. It is a story of perseverance and shows how love and sisterhood manage to conquer fear and repression and violence. It is a story of sacrifices that two women make for their children and each other in the face of an abusive husband and a repressive society. The themes of love and family run through the book and show us that there are many different instantiations of family and of love. The two main characters, from different generations and different upbringings, come to be a family and love each other deeply as sisters, so much so that one makes an enormous sacrifice for the other so that she may have the family and romantic love she has always wanted. The book also opens one’s eyes to the harsh and often shockingly traumatic lives of the people of war torn Afghanistan, a country that has been host to war and foreign invaders for nearly four decades. In between the Soviet and American invasions, the Taliban waged a war of severe religious repression on the citizens, and women and girls suffered the brunt of this cruelty. A large portion of the book is about the lives of these two women during the era of Taliban rule. And yet, in this book you can see how the strong people of that country (embodied in the main characters) manage to pick themselves up and continue on with their lives in the face of their tremendous loss. Hosseini’s writing often approaches the poetic and the imagery is evocative and deeply touching and achieved a cinematic quality in my mind. The characters are well written and lead to a strong feeling of connection that is a rare find in fiction today.