A Thousand Splendid Suns is Khaled Hosseini’s second novel, about the love between two women set in the backdrop of the wars in Afghanistan. The novel begins in a time of peace with the story of the older woman, Mariam, who as a young illegitimate daughter of a wealthy man hero-worships her father and does not believe her mother’s warnings about him. When she is fifteen, she finds out the kind of man he is through a series of horrible events, beginning when she goes to the house of his legitimate family to ask him to take her to the movies. Her mother dies, and within days, her father’s legitimate family marries her off far away in Kabul to a much older man, Rasheed. Rasheed is kind to her at first, but when she cannot bring a child to term, he becomes abusive.
A neighbor of Rasheed and Mariam, Laila is 20 years younger than Mariam. She has been brought up and educated by her loving parents to be brave. She has always been in love with her childhood friend Tajik and they expect to marry, but Tajik’s family leaves the country during the war because of his father’s illness. Just as Laila’s parents are preparing to leave as well, they are killed. Rasheed, now in his 60’s, takes in Laila purportedly as an act of kindness and tricks her into marrying him.
Initially distrustful of each other, the two women soon each becomes the only person the other can trust as they lose all their rights under the government of the Taliban. Trapped in an abusive marriage, they must work together to survive.
Hosseini’s story-telling is absolutely compelling. The women’s existence is harsh, and he tells their story with compassion. The ending will leave you in tears.