A masterful follow-up to’The Kite Runner’ | AspenTimes.com

A masterful follow-up to’The Kite Runner’

Title: A Thousand Splendid SunsAuthor: Khaled HosseiniPublisher: Riverhead BooksPrice: $25.95

Khaled Hosseini’s first novel, “The Kite Runner,” was a best-seller for nearly two years. It gave post-9/11 readers an intimate look into Afghanistan as well as an amazing tale of friendship, humanity, and redemption. After such a powerful and moving novel, many wondered how Hosseini would follow it up.Earlier this year the much-anticipated “A Thousand Splendid Suns” was released. This book too illuminates the lives of Afghanis swept up by the tide of history, but this tale is an entirely different tragedy than “The Kite Runner.”

“A Thousand Splendid Suns” focuses on mothers and daughters, and friendships between women. The tragic heroines of the tale are Mariam and Laila, from completely different backgrounds but married to the same brutish man. The story paints a sad and poignant picture of Afghan women’s lives – the slights of men, the disdain of society and other hardships.The story begins in the early 1970s, when 15-year-old Mariam, after her mother’s suicide, is forced to marry Rasheed, a repulsive and cruel shoemaker in Kabul. As her story unfolds, so does that of a neighborhood girl, Laila, whose promising future and true love are stripped away when Mujahedeen rockets rain on Kabul and kill her parents. At the age of 14, she is forced to become Rasheed’s second wife. This twist puts her into the home of Mariam and the two women become close friends as they raise Laila’s baby.As the characters’ tragic stories are revealed, however, so are the more hopeful messages that sisterhood is powerful, childhood promises are sacred, and true love never dies. Despite the harshest of conditions, these women triumph through enormous self-sacrifice and help friends in need.

The sympathy Hosseini conjures for his characters stems as much from their personalities as from the situations they face: battling with unhappy families, abusive marriages, repressive governments and cultural codes. Hosseini succeeds in making the emotional reality of Mariam’s and Laila’s lives tangible to the reader. By illustrating their daily routines, he is able to paint a compelling picture of everyday life in Kabul – both before and during the harsh reign of the Taliban.The heartfelt struggle and friendship in the midst of a war and violence make “A Thousand Splendid Suns” just as much a must-read as “The Kite Runner.”

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