MOTIVATION for READING: I was eager to read this book based on the many fabulous reviews. I was ready to read it now because I wish for more diverse settings in my reading. This satisfies another read for ASIA for my Global Challenge. It is also an excellent selection for the Women Unbound Challenge.
FIRST SENTENCE: “Mariam was five years old the first time she heard the word harami.”
WHAT’s it ABOUT: This book is the intersecting stories of two orphan girls a generation apart in Kabul Afghanistan. Beginning in the 1970s through today and set against the political wars of this country, we meet Mariam and Laila and are immersed in their dreams, their fears, their decisions, and the processes of survival.
I love literature like this set in a country often in the news and usually misunderstood, at least by me. We are given images on TV of dust and drab, of soldiers armed, and citizens scurrying and we (I) don’t take the time to realize these are people! People trying to make a life, having few choices, making the best of what is. (WHY?! How? I don’t get why we fight.) I am sad when I am presented (in print) with lush images of beautiful landscapes that may exist or existed once, that I am surprised that that part of the world could be lovely. I am sad that the cultural and historical heritage has been so decimated by war. A Thousand Splendid Suns gives a beautiful representation of lost Afghanistan and what has gone on ‘over there.’ War sucks. This book may be fiction but literature makes the world come alive more than the news ever seems to.
Hosseini can write. Easy but powerful prose, instant transportation into the world of the characters, palpable. The most striking and memorable reminder I took away from this experience is that people are people. The cruelty that exists in this world is just not understandable! and we humans somehow can survive horrible conditions with goodness intact. The human condition is multi-faceted. The triumph of the human spirit is astonishing.
“In the coming days, Laila would scramble frantically to commit it all to memory, what happened next. Like an art lover running out of a burning musuem, she would grab whatever she could – a look, a whisper, a moan – to salvage from perishing, to preserve. But time is the most unforgiving of fires, and she couldn’t, in the end, save it all.”
“I’m sorry,” Laila says, marveling at how every Afghan story is marked by death and loss and unimaginable grief. And yet, she sees, people find a way to survive, to go on.
“And then, from the darkened spirals of her memory, rise two lines of poetry, Babi’s farewell ode to Kabul:
One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs,
Or the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls.
– generally accepted translation by Dr. Josephine Davis of a poem by Saeb-e-Tabrizi, a seventeenth-century Persian poet
This is Hosseini‘s second book; his debut, The Kite Runner, was also critically received. I look forward to more.
RATING: Five slices of pie.
OTHER REVIEWS: So many!! So I will point to the search results from Fyrefly’s Book Blog Search Engine.