A Thousand Splendid Suns
A Review by Vivian Ly

A NOVEL BY THE AUTHOR OF
THE KITE RUNNER
Khaled Hosseini
Khaled Hosseini, A Thousand Splendid Suns.Riverhead Books, 2007.
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"'Like a compass needle that points north, a man's accusing finger always finds a woman. Always. You remember that, Mariam'" (Hosseini 7).

"'[...] A man's heart is a wretched, wretched thing. It isn't like a mother's womb. It won't bleed. It won't stretch to make room for you'" (Hosseini 26).


"A woman who will be like a rock in a riverbed, enduring without complaint, her grace not sullied but shaped by the turbulence that washes over her" (Hosseini 355).

"[...] all I can remember now is two lines: 'One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs, Or the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her -walls'" (Hosseini 172).





Book Review
I highly recommend this book for anyone who has read The Kite Runner or has an interest in reading about the hardships of spousal abuse. At first this book starts off with a little girl excited to see her beloved father, but throughout the book, ends with the little girl happy to see her—at first enemy— now "daughter" live a happy and youthful life with the one she also loves. This book shows their struggle and love for one another and, in the end, they learn to help one another along a frightful journey. Once the journey starts readers are able to see the efforts of two women as they try to escape their daily lives. The world Khaled Hosseini portrays deals with situations that are similar to that of women around the world, but also teaches readers the life of how these women overcome their struggles.


Ratings


Barnes & Noble
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Goodreads
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Personal
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About the Author
Khaled Hosseini
external image AR-AC488_KHALED_DV_20130515125406.jpgAccording to Khaled Hosseini's biography, Hosseini lives in Northern
California but was born in Kabul,Afghanistan, in 1965.
He grew up with both his mother, a teacher who taught Farsi and history, and his father, who was a diplomat in the Afghan Foreign Ministry. In 1976, Hosseini and his family were relocated to Paris and did not return due to an invasion of the Soviet Army. They then were granted political asylum in the United States and relocated to the U.S. in 1980 to San Jose, California.

After their family moved to California, Hosseini enrolled at the University of Santa Clara and earned his biology degree in 1988 after he graduated high school in 1984. In 1989 he enrolled at the University of California in San Diego's School of Medicine where he earned his medical degree in 1993. After his graduation at San Diego's School of Medicine, Hosseini began writing his first novel, The Kite Runner, which was published in 2003. This novel was a hit and became one of the bestsellers that was sold in 70 countries and spent more than 100 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. After four years, Hosseini published another novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns, and was again put on the New York Times bestseller list for an entire year.

After his publications, in 2006 Hosseini was given the title Goodwill Envoy to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and established The Khaled Hosseini Foundation. This foundation is a nonprofit program that works for the UNHCR to build shelters and provide humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan

Interviews




Discussion of A ThousandSplendid Suns




Why Khaled Hosseini writes

Other Novels by Khaled Hosseini
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The Kite Runner( April 27, 2004 )
A Thousand Splendid Suns
( Nov. 25, 2008 )


And the Mountain Echoed( June 3, 2014 )


*WARNING SPOILERS!*
Analysis
I originally selected Khaled Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns because it was recommended to me by my peers and a teacher. Many people have a hard time figuring out literary novels to read because some may seem boring, however, because of the high praise I heard about this book, I gave it a shot and fell in love with it. Khaled Hosseini writes about the life that Mariam lives during her fifth and 15th birthday before she is engaged to Rasheed, a widowed shoemaker from Deh-Mazang. "' [...] I've seen nine-year-old girls given to men twenty years older than your suitor, Mariam. We all have. What are you, fifteen? That's a good, solid marrying age for a girl.'" (Hosseini 47). This arranged marriage surprised me because I did not realize how young girls were married off during this time in Kabul, and it made me think, when I was 15 I was walking around the halls of high school and only had my education and my friends. I didn't even think about marriage, and I still am not thinking about it at the age of 17, and for Mariam to be 15 and married made me wonder what she was thinking during this time. This made me realize how common child marriages were at the time, and still are common around the world.

The farsi used within the novel was defined and described enough to the point that I understood what Hosseini was talking about. After reading the first few chapters, I was intrigued by Mariam's enthusiasm while she awaited for Jalil in the kolba even though Mariam's mother, Nana, kept saying awful things about him. This made me think about the other young boys and girls who may be in a situation like Mariam; how she would wait for her chance to see her father after days of waiting by the window just to see his smile. Mariam loved her father more than anything, but did not understand the situation she was in; how her mother was outcasted by the village because of her sin. When I read this I wondered if I would have had the courage to do the same as her; run away from the life she lived to start a new one with the person she loved. I thought about this concept in my head for a while after reading this section and wondered if any of the people around me— my friends, the people I walk to class with— have these types of struggles around at home. The word harami was used for the first time when Mariam was five years old. Harami means "forbidden" if used to describe a person, harami means a product of forbidden sex outside marriage. This was the reason why Mariam and her mother were disgraced from the village, even though she did not know during the time. Mariam's mother, Nana, was accused of forcing herself upon Jalil, a rich movie theater owner who lives in Herat, making Mariam the daughter of a sinner.

This whole situation led up to Rasheed tricking Laila into a marriage. At first Laila was the apple of Rasheed's eyes, the princess of the kolba, given gifts and taken outside of the kolba by Mariam, "the queen", or Rasheed whenever she wanted. However, after years of being treated this way, he revealed his true nature to Laila. As the story goes on, Laila understands what Rasheed does when he is not the dominant person, or the alpha, in the relationship and tries to escape with Mariam and her daughter, Aziza. Unfortunately the three women were shipped back like animals when they were about to board their train to freedom. When they returned home, Rasheed brutally punished them all by "[grabbing] Laila by the elbow and [pushing] her up the steps" (Hosseini 239). However this was not the end, "Laila didn't see the punch coming. One moment she was talking and the next she was on all fours, wide-eyed and red-faced [...] She tried to breathe again and could only make a husky, choking sound [...] She saw Aziza flung onto the bed [...] She saw Rasheed leading Mariam across the yard by the nape of her neck [...] There was blood on his hands, blood on Mariam's face, her hair, down her neck and back" (Hosseini 240). While reading this, I was psychotic. What Rasheed did to his wives and his daughters was painful and was not what I would expect a man to do. He is supposed to protect and provide for them, the people who take care and love him (even though he is a nutcase). He made all three of them suffer without food, water, or daylight for days with Aziza suffering from severe heat. Even though these things happened to Mariam though, she gave herself up to protect Laila, Aziza, and Zalmai— Laila's son who is introduced later in the novel— from the beatings that Rasheed could have done. Making Mariam someone Laila looked up to as she continued her life with her beloved husband Tariq and her two children Aziza and Zalmai.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini has shown a true background of what it means to believe in oneself and to look after the ones that you love. Whether it be at home, at school, or around town, Hosseini has written and shown how women and men treat one another through a heartfelt reality that has happened through history and still exists in todays world.

Discussion of Literary Merit
A Thousand Splendid Suns is a work of literary merit to some and to others not so much. Some audiences may say that this novel is not a work of literary merit because of its easy content, however, others would argue that because of its descriptive and mature thematic nature it is indeed a work of literary merit. People who say that A Thousand Splendid Suns is an easy read are true. This book, even with some farsi language, is easily understood by audiences, which in turn is a fine argument for those who do say this novel is a work of literary merit. Even though the book is easy to understand, the farsi that was used within the book was easily understood by readers because of Hosseini's efforts to describe and define what each word meant. Hosseini uses his own unique writing style by incorporating farsi, the official language of Iran, and uses imagery to depict war and the struggles that families faced during these times. He also includes many ongoing themes throughout the novel, such as "love has no boundaries" or "love includes self sacrifice and loss" In A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini depicts these types of struggles and love by using imagery to describe violent scenes such as sexual assaults between Rasheed and his wives, domestic assaults such as the beatings that Mariam and Laila had when Rasheed had his fits, and wartime fighting between the Soviets and Afghanistan throughout the entire book. These types of scenes illustrates that A Thousand Splendid Suns is a literary read for teens and adults alike who want to understand the struggles of families as they venture through their lives of violence meant to describe real issues faced in todays society.

Theme
Power is a dangerous thing to have in a world full of war. This theme is broadcasted throughout the novel through not only Rasheed's actions, but Mariam, Laila, and Tariq's as well.

Rasheed is known to have caused a lot of sorrow within the household, and has shown that power can be dangerous depending on how it is used. He believed that demeaning his wives gave him the opportunity to use that vulnerability and force them against each other. He wanted to try to ruin Laila's relationship with Tariq and force Mariam and Laila to obey his every word. During this time the war between the Soviets and the Afghani's were in place, causing mass hysteria and loss of hope for freedom. This gave Rasheed the perfect opportunity to give Laila and Mariam false hope in believing that Rasheed was the anchor to their survival.

However, Rasheed's dream was shattered once Laila and Mariam knew the truth about Tariq. Once Tariq was back in the picture, Rasheed was not able to control Laila any further, causing a domino effect giving Mariam the same bravery as Laila when she disobeyed Rasheed and instead spoke her mind about how she truly felt. Though the two women gained a sense of power, they were knocked off their feet when Rasheed showed his true colors and came after the both of them in a ball of rage. As he came after the two, Mariam and Laila took a leap of faith and did the unexpected: they killed Rasheed. This relinquished Rasheed's power, but caused Mariam to sacrifice herself in order to give Laila, Tariq, Aziza, and Zalmai a second chance at living a happy life as a family. This meaning of "power" caused family breakups within different families during the war, causing Mariam to lose her beloved Jalil, and now her "daughter" Laila and her sweet grandchildren, Aziza and Zalmai. "Power" started the story by giving Mariam a chance to live a life with her father, and ended her life with the joy of sacrificing herself for her own family.




Questions
  1. Do women have a role in society now?
  2. What does being a woman even mean
  3. Do names in society matter, if so, why?
  4. How does society view women now? In the book?
  5. Do the stereotypes within the book define women in society now? If so, when and why are these stereotypes still around?
  6. Will Laila ever tell her son, Zalmai, what really happened to his father, Rasheed?
  7. How would our world work if marriages were the same as in the book? Jealousy? Suicidal rates?