Author: Khaled Hosseini
Bloomsbury Publishing, 2007 (UK version)
Several years ago, I picked up a book at the Indianapolis library called The Kite Runner. It was the only book that ever made me cry. Until now.
A Thousand Splendid Suns is the story of two women in Afghanistan, spanning some forty years. The oldest woman, Mariam, is the "illegitimate" child of a rich man and a household worker. She and her mother are hidden away from her father's "real" family - which includes three wives and nine other children - but he takes care of them financially and visits Mariam every Thursday. She adores her father and pushes aside all the bad things she hears about him from her mother.
A sad twist of fate separates her from everyone she knows as she is forced to marry a much older man. He's traditional, and very much at odds with the more liberal neighbors whose wives go out in public unveiled and whose daughters attend school and university. As the Soviets invade Afghanistan, lines are drawn and sides are taken. Divisions continue to occur when the Soviets leave, years later.
Meanwhile, we are introduced to the other female character, Laila. She is a generation younger than Mariam, and through another sad twist of fate they are drawn together. In order to avoid spoilers, I won't talk more about the plot. What I will tell you is that I read this book in one sitting, in about five hours on Sunday afternoon, because I couldn't put it down.
This book has everything I like: history, a great story, and amazing characters.
A Thousand Splendid Suns is even better than The Kite Runner. I cried again - even more, this time - not just for the characters but for the fact that books this good just don't come along all that often. I'll probably have to wait another couple of years, or until Khaled Hosseini's next book comes out. Whenever that is.
Rating: 5 stars.