"A Thousand Splendid Suns" by Khaled Hosseini

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Mariam was a harami. She was an unwanted child and a burden to her mother. She first heard the word when she was five.


She was restless, because it was a Thursday, the day when Jalil, her father, would come visit her. To pass the time until he came, Mariam climbed onto a chair and took down her mother’s, Nana’s Chinese tea set. Nana cherished the tea set; it was the sole relic Nana had of her mother who had died when she was only two. It was a sugar bowl, it was painted with a dragon to ward off evil that slipped through Mariam’s fingers and shattered on the floorboards of the kolba.
“You are a clumsy little harami. This is my reward for everything I’ve endured. An heirloom-breaking, clumsy little harami.”


These were the words Nana spit through gritted teeth at her unwanted child.  At that time Mariam didn’t know what the word harami – bastard – meant. But she did understand that being a harami was nothing to be proud of, that it was an ugly and loathsome thing.


Mariam lives in a kolba on the outskirts of Heart with her bitter mother Nana. Mariam is the illegimate child of Nana and her father Jalil who is a rich businessman and liver with his tree wife’s and several children in the city. He visits every Thursday and she loves him very much. On her fifteenth birthday Jalil has promised Mariam that he will take her to the cinema to watch Pinocchio. When Jalil doesn’t show up so she hikes into town and ends up sleeping on the street outside the house because he won’t let her in. the day after she returns to the kolba, only to find her mother hanging in the weeping willow. Nana killed herself because she thought Mariam had abandoned her.


Mariam gets taken in by her father and she thinks he finally will accept her and that she will live there and get an education. What happens is that he marries her off to a forty-five year old shoemaker named Rasheed. He lives in Kabul, and Mariam feels betrayed by her father. She gets pregnant, seven times, but all of them are miscarriages and Rasheed who prayed and hoped for a boy becomes abusive. He blames her for every mistake, every moment of bad luck, hitting her, ignoring her and making her life miserable.


Many years later, down the street Laila is born. Her father was a so called modern man. He wanted her to go to school, get a good education. She had two brothers but they were like people from stories for her because they went into war before she had the chance to know them. Her mother was not a good mother, always worrying and missing her sons and just became worse when they died. Laila’s best friend’s name is Tariq. Over the years they grow passionate for each other and when Tariq’s family decides to flee Afghanistan and get away from the war they make love. Laila’s mother refuses to leave even though the bombs are raining down on Kabul and has claimed Laila’s other friend Giti while she was walking home from school, blowing her to pieces. In the end Laila’s mother gives in seeing it is too dangerous to raise her last child in the war. As they are packing to leave a bomb hits their house and her parents are killed and Laila is badly wounded.


Laila gets taken in by Mariam and Rasheed. Not long after she finds she’s pregnant with Tariq’s child and decides to marry Rasheed after she believes that Tariq is dead. Rasheed is more than happy to get a young and pretty second wife. When Laila gives birth to a girl Rasheed is unhappy and becomes more abusive. Mariam does not like Laila and blames her for taking her husband, but over time they become good friends. They decide to run away together, using the money Laila was able to steal from Rasheed over time little by little. The law in Afghanistan at the time is that women can’t travel without the company of a man. At the bus station they find someone to help them, but he betrays them and they get caught. When they get home Rasheed is furious and beats them, he locks them up separately without food or water for, many days and almost kills Aziza.


A few years later Laila gives birth to a son, Zalmai. The Taliban have risen to power making life even harder for Laila and Mariam. There is also a drought, and Rasheed’s workshop burns down. He is forced to take ill fitted job and can’t raise enough money. The family haves a hard time and as time goes by they’re afraid they will starve to death. They have to send Aziza to an orphanage. It in terrible state and Laila can almost not bear the pain of leaving her in such a place. Rasheed promises she will be able to visit but after a while he stops taking her and she goes out on her own. She gets beaten but keeps going desperate to get to Aziza.


One day Tariq who was long thought dead to Laila shows up. Again their love for each other flares. When Rasheed comes home later that night Zalmai tells his father about the Tariq’s visit and is furious. He beats Laila and Mariam is unable to stop him. Desperately she gets a shovel and knocks him off her. In his eyes Mariam sees murder not only for her but also for Laila. She has no choice; the shovel comes through the air and strikes Rasheed, killing him. Laila wants Mariam to come with her and Tariq to Pakistan but Mariam refuses saying that there was no way out of what she had done. She admits to killing Rasheed and is executed in public.


Laila and Tariq flee to Pakistan with the children and get married. After the war they decide to return to Kabul. On the way they visit Heart, Mariam’s old home. Laila goes to the kolba, and visits some old friends of Mariam and she discovers a box Jalil has left for his daughter. In it is a Pinocchio video, a little pile of money and a letter. In Kabul they fix up the orphanage, where Laila works as a teacher. She is pregnant with her third child, and if it is a girl it is decided her name will be Mariam.


I really enjoyed this book; it is one of my absolute favorites. I can admit that in the beginning I wasn’t too fond of it and kind of regretted my choice, but I ended up loving it. I can strongly recommend it to others, especially girls. You learn a lot about how the women lived in Afghanistan before the war and after and how it still is today. For me what I found astonishing is how radically and incredibly quickly everything changed for them. Their whole life changed in the course of a few years. It really is an incredible book. With a lot of facts, but blended into an incredibly mesmerizing story about love and friendship.



Khaled Hosseini is the author of the book, “A thousand splendid suns”. He was born in Kabul, Afghanistan on March 4 1965 and moved to the United States in 1980. He has very fond memories from his childhood in a pre soviet Afghanistan, which led to the righting of his debuting novel, “The kite runner”, a bestselling novel. Khaled practiced medicine until two years after the release of The kite runner. Over the past years he has worked as a U.S envoy for UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, an organization that helps more than twenty million displaced people around the world, and he means helping refugees has been one of the most rewarding and meaningful experiences of his life.

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