April 28, 2007

A Thousand Splendid Suns

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
Contemporary Fiction
Finished on 4/27/07
Rating: 4.75/5 (Terrific!)
ARC - Book due out on May 22nd

Book Description:

Khaled Hosseini's novel A Thousand Splendid Suns is a breathtaking story set against the volatile events of Afghanistan's past thirty years -- from the Soviet invasion to the reign of the Taliban, to the post-Taliban reemergence -- that puts the violence, fear, hope, and faith of this country in intimate human terms. It is a tale of two generations of characters brought jarringly together by the tragic sweep of war, where personal lives -- the struggle to survive, raise a family, find happiness -- are inextricable from the history playing out around them all. A Thousand Splendid Suns is a striking, heart-wrenching novel of an unforgiving time, an unlikely friendship, and an indestructible love.

Khaled Hosseini's stunning first novel, The Kite Runner, is already a beloved classic. It has been published in forty countries, has been on the New York Times bestseller list for more than 111 weeks, and has sold more than 4 million copies in the United States.

Not only did The Kite Runner quickly became a favorite with book groups worldwide, several communities (including mine) chose it for their annual "One Book" program. It made my Top Ten list for 2004 and I'm anxious to see the film, which comes out in November.

As with many highly successful debut novels, there tends to be heightened anticipation when the author's subsequent book is announced. This is often tempered by a bit of trepidation. Will the author's sophomore endeavor satisfy his devoted fans, or will he be relegated to the status of a one-hit-wonder? Rest assured, this reader was not disappointed in the least. If anything, A Thousand Splendid Suns surpasses The Kite Runner, soaring above all expectations, higher than one could have possibly imagined.

It's always a struggle for me to write a review without divulging too much information. With each favorite passage or plot summary, I fear too many key elements will be revealed -- not necessarily spoilers, but facts that I know I would prefer to discover on my own. So, I won't spoil the thrill of discovery for any of you. However, I can speak in generalities.

When I glanced over my journal notes for The Kite Runner, I was surprised that so much of what I wrote could easily describe this new novel. It too is a story of family ties, friendship, loyalty, courage, love and betrayal. It's also a tale of great despair and endurance. I found myself gritting my teeth as I read, stopping to pause for a moment, reminding myself that it's only a story. Yet, perhaps that's what was so disturbing. Yes, it's a work of fiction, yet there's such truth in the details.

This is by no means a light and cheery read. It's all too real and all too heartbreaking. It makes me examine my own life and the luck -- pure and simple luck -- that I was born in Canada and raised in the United States. I have never been confined to my home, only allowed to leave if accompanied by a male relative. I have never had to wear a burqa, with only my eyes visible to those who see me. I have never been denied an education or the opportunity to work. I have never had to refrain from singing or dancing. I've never been afraid to laugh in public or speak before spoken to. I've never been forbidden from watching movies or television, and I have never heard a bomb explode in my city or in my neighborhood. I have never known real hunger, nor have I ever experienced dysentery or TB. I have never, ever been beaten.

I simply can't fathom a life filled with such fear. I sit here in the comfort of my home, listening to the hum of the computer, taking for granted the endless supply of electricity, indoor plumbing, and a refrigerator full of food; all the freedoms to which I am entitled as a free woman.

Why me? How did I get to be one of the lucky ones?

This is an unforgettable, thought-provoking story about Mariam and Laila, two women whose lives surreptitiously intersect during a reign of terror in Afghanistan. It's a intensely emotional page-turner that leaves you with a deep sense of humility for those who have ever suffered. There are only a few books that have had such a profound affect on me: Elie Wiesel's Night, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, and Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. Hosseini's novels are also reminiscent of Rohinton Mistry's A Fine Balance and Pearl S. Buck's The Good Earth. These are all beautifully evocative narratives, and while each taught me about the culture and history of the countries described, they are also a stark reminder of how very fortunate I am to be a woman in America in the 21st century.

This is a keeper, folks. Hosseini is a gifted and consummate storyteller, filling page after page with scenes of political unrest, all depicted with stunning clarity, each and every primary character fully realized. I have no doubt that this highly anticipated novel will become an immediate sensation.

I only have one question for Mr. Hosseini: How soon before your third book is published??


  1. I knew that he was writing a new book, but I had no idea it was out yet! Off to request it from the library right now!

  2. Anonymous8:01 PM

    Oh, I just loved The Kite Runner and can't wait to get my hands on his new one. How did you get an advanced copy (you lucky girl)?

  3. This is definitely a must have! Kite Runner is one of those rare books that not only made my top ten list in 2004, but has remained in my top ten. I'm looking forward to reading this one!

    Great review~

  4. oooh, I've been in high anticipation of this book and SOOOoo glad to hear the Kite Runner wasn't a fluke!

    I'm off to put a hold on this book at the library right now....thanks so much for the GREAT review.

  5. Les: This is the firt review I've read of this one and I'm so very glad to hear that you thought it was so good. I thought The Kite Runner was so wonderfully written and was in fear that his second book would be a letdown as so many second books after a fabulous debut tend to be. Now you've got me looking forward to reading this one.

  6. Yours is the first review I'm read of this book and I'm glad it's positive. I'm really looking forward to it -- I loved The Kite Runner but was a little bit afraid of this second one.

  7. Ooo! I'm so envious you were able to read this one already, Lesley. I am really looking forward to it, and your review is enough to make me want to run to the store and buy a copy when it comes out next month. Great review!

  8. As a fan of his first book, I'm so looking forward to reading this second one. And...it's great news to read a grand review. :)

    I've got THE GOOD EARTH coming up soon on my iPod. I'm looking forward to that, too.

    Thanks for the review.

  9. I'm so glad to hear that it lived up to your expectations and was equally as affecting as The Kite Runner. I'm looking forward to reading it!


  10. I haven't read "Kite Runner" yet and now I will be adding this to my list. Oh well, I can enjoy the anticipation. Thanks for a great review.

  11. Anonymous4:38 PM

    you have made me VERY excited to read this book! More so than I already was! I can hardly wait to get my grubby little hands on a copy

  12. Wow, Les, this sounds wonderful! I'm going to have to put this one on my wish list. I have the Kite Runner but haven't read it yet - I guess I need to!

    Thanks for a terrific review.

  13. Anonymous8:01 AM

    I cannot wait to read this one! So glad it lived up to your expectations.

  14. Thanks for a great review! Can't wait for the chance to read this one.

  15. Sorry, Marg! I should've originally posted a note that I read an ARC and that the book isn't due out until May 22nd. Now you have something to look forward to. ;)

    Stephanie - My wonderful sister-in-law let me read it BEFORE her! Can you believe that? My brother and I have now both read it, but can't discuss it in front of my SIL. Don't want to spoil it for her. :)

    Jenclair - Yes, it's most definitely a keeper. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Thanks for the compliment.

    Lisa - Isn't it nice to know a follow-up isn't a disappointment. Well, at least it wasn't for me or my brother. Hopefully, it won't be for others either! Thanks for the compliement on my review. They're always so much easier to write when the book is a winner.

    SuziQ - I have to admit, it was kind of fun writing my review, knowing I'd be one of the first to post about it. Why is that??! Hope you enjoy the book as well as I did.

    Katya - I'm ready to re-read The Kite Runner now. I'll probably re-read ATSS sometime soon, too. It was remarkable.

    Literary Feline - I was feeling a bit smug about reading it so much sooner than everyone else. Kind of nice to be back in the book biz! ;) Thanks for the virtual pat on the back.

    Joy - "... a grand review." Awww, thanks! It was fun to write (says she who wants to sneer at a former professor who gave me a D on an essay).

    Andi - I think you'll like this one.

    Framed - I don't think you can go wrong with either book. I'm envious that you get to read them for the first time!

    Think Pink Dana - I hope everyone enjoys it as much as I did. I hate to gush about a book, only to have others wind up disappointed. Keeping my fingers crossed...

    Wendy - Thanks for the nice comment! I've been trying to figure out if there's any reason why you should read one before the other, and I really don't think it matters. They're both so good, although A Thousand Splendid Suns is a bit better. Have fun with both (although, I might suggest you don't read them to close together, but then that's just my opinion).

    Iliana - Me, too! I really had high hopes and was so happy they weren't dashed.

    Suey - Thanks. It's a fairly quick read, so try to make time for it as soon as you can. Thanks for stopping by. :)

  16. I have gooseflesh with excitement in reading your review. I recently listened to Kite Runner on cd and have a serious crush on Khaled Hosseini - what a man. His new book may be my greatest anticipation this summer.

  17. Oh! I just read your comments...may I suggest that you listen to the Kite Runner when you re-read. Khaled Hosseini has an amazing voice.

  18. Anonymous8:03 PM

    I guess I need to get the Kite Runner read soon! Glad to hear this one lives up to the high expectations--that surely doesn't happen often! Another one to add to my list!

  19. Wow, I can't wait to read this! I loved The Kite Runner. I'm excited to see that you felt the second book was as good if not better than the first.

  20. I am so jealous. I can't wait to read this, especially after seeing you liked it so much. I didn't read your review, I have it saved to do so after I read it, but I did see that much!

  21. I have this book on order - so glad you liked it - I couldn't read for days after reading the Kite Runner - I was overwhelmed by what I had written.

  22. Anonymous7:34 PM

    Oh, I cannot wait to read this book!

    And I didn't know The Kite Runner was being made into a film - I hope they do it justice.

  23. wzgirl - Thanks for visiting my blog. I see you enjoyed The Kite Runner (nice blog, by the way!) and suspect you'll love this new one just as well. Thanks for the recommendation to listen to TKR on audio. I may just have to do that later this summer - perfect idea for my daily walks. I've heard Hosseini is a great reader.

    Danielle - Lucky you to have both books to look forward to! I suggest you save one for when you're falling into a slump. I'm pretty sure it'd pull you right out.

    Bookinhand - Thanks for stopping by my blog. Hope you enjoy the book as much as I did.

    Heather - If you like, you can go back and read my review. I made certain to leave out all spoilers. The only details are those that were printed on the back of the book. I can't wait to hear how your thoughts on the book. Only 2 1/2 more weeks!

    sally906 - It took me a few days to move on to another book after reading this one. I think that's the sign of a truly remarkable story; one that you're not quite ready to say goodbye to. I'm still thinking about it and will definitely read it again. This has "book club book" written all over it!

    Lesley - Me, too. I'm always torn about books being made into movies. I'm anxious to see both The Kite Runner and Atonement, but I don't want the original stories ruined for me either.

  24. Les, I am thrilled you enjoyed this book...you have got me soooo excited to read it when it comes out on May 22nd...not too long to wait...woo hoo!

    Got to ask you though (a hypothetical question ofcourse), if I could read only one Hosseini, which one would you recommend? I know it's probably a terribly unfair question but just trying to gauge if you preferred this read to "The Kite Runner".

  25. ooops, never mind, Les, I just saw the answer to my question in your response to Wendy! Now I am even more excited! :)

  26. Lotus - You haven't read either one? I think you're in for a treat no matter which one you choose first. I'll be interested in reading your opinion on both!

  27. Hi, Les

    I have read "The Kiterunner" but have yet to read the new one. I will let you know when I do!

  28. Anonymous2:05 PM

    I agree with you. I've never been so profoundly moved by a book in my life.


  29. Leslie (another one!) - Thanks for stopping by. Another wonderful book, if you haven't read it yet, is The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak.


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