Well done Khaled Hosseini, you have done it again. You have crushed my heart with an amazing, yet heart-breaking story.
I read The Kite Runner last year and it is honestly one of the best books I have ever read. I recommended it to my Mum and she also loved it. She kept on asking if I had any more of Khaled Hosseini’s books so she could borrow them but I didn’t. She picked up A Thousand Splendid Suns up at an airport. She came back from her holiday raving about it and telling me that I should read it. I was a bit apprehensive about it reading it because I wasn’t sure how it could be better than The Kite Runner.
Turns out that I didn’t have anything to worry about. I was glued to this book from the moment I opened it.
Unlike The Kite Runner, the main characters of this book are female. Miriam, a harami (an illegitimate child) and Laila, a young girl who was left orphaned and homeless when a bomb hit her house. Khaled Hosseini’s portrayal of these characters is truly amazing. They are not just simple characters who are either happy or sad. They are extremely complex, like every single one of us. There are moments of joy, heartbreak, anger, hatred, forgiveness, love etc. Basically, Khaled Hosseini showcased the exact emotions that any one of us would experience if we were in their shoes.
Whilst it was a great joy to read a book like this where the main characters are female, I found the male characters fixating.
You have Jilal, Miriam’s father. He’s a wealthy man who is too scared of losing face to care for his daughter. He is one of those fathers who see their children when it suits them. You have to remember that it was a scandal to have an illegitimate child. Especially if you were the head of a wealthy family.
You also have Rasheed, who to put it politely, it a complete ass. He manipulates people to get what he wants and he views women as his property. He completely exploits the power that society has handed him and unfortunately, because he is a man, he can do what he wants and not be punished.
Laila’s dad is also a big part of this book in my opinion. Okay, he might not be a main character, but without a father like him, Laila would not be the kind of character that Khaled Hosseini created. He is a scholar and doesn’t really agree with the social rules in place. He would much prefer his daughter to have an education than be a married housewife at the age of 13. Hands down he was my favourite character.
Tariq is another notable male character. As a young boy he lost a leg. This doesn’t stop him from having dreams or aspirations or for defending his woman’s honour. He is a lovable character who has such a big heart.
As you can see, the male characters are so very different. I think we needed this is a book like this. It’s important to remember that in a society where it is acceptable to beat and rape your wife, where you can heap lots of love on your sons but not give two hoots about your daughters, that you can still choose what time of person you want to be. Not every man in Afghanistan is like Rasheed and that’s a very important message that Khaled Hosseini has put out.
This book made me happy, it made me cry, it made me angry, but most of all it made me grateful for the lifestyle I have the society that I am part of. I felt that I came away from this book having learned something. Khaled Hosseini’s books tend to do that to me, and for that I thank him. It’s not often I finish a book and continue to think about it long after I have closed the book and place it back on the book shelf. But here I am, almost a week after I finished it and I am still thinking about all the innocent, ordinary people who have had their lives turned upside down by conflict.