April 28, 2007
A Thousand Splendid Suns
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
Finished on 4/27/07
Rating: 4.75/5 (Terrific!)
ARC - Book due out on May 22nd
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??