I don’t usually make New Year resolutions because I know that during the course of the year, situations change and I will fail to keep up to that. However I made a resolution this year, mostly copied from others via facebook – that is to read 100 books this year; almost 2 books per week. 40 days into the year, I’ve done only 3 books and my third book is ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ written by Khaled Hosseini – An Afghan born American Author. It is his second book after his famous “Kite Runner”. When Kite Runner says about personal suffering and hardships of a regretful Afghan boy who didn’t help his half brother when he was raped by a cunning half-nazi Afghan for not giving up his kite; A Thousand Splendid Suns tells a completely different story – a sad story filled with the sufferings that humans had brought upon themselves set in Afghanistan.
I am not really a big fan of reading reviews. If you are planning to read this book in the near future, I advice you to read that book and then come back and read this review because a book has to be read with an open mind without any expectation and influence.
A Thousand Splendid Suns is a story based on true incidents which has been shaking Afghanistan for the past 70 odd years – first by the Soviet Union, then by Mujahideen, followed by Taliban and Al Qae Da and the United States. The story revolves not around Afghanistan itself but how the politics and the environment in Afghanistan tears apart two women who were 19 years apart in age married to the same guy who is old enough to be a father of one and grandfather of the other.
One of the woman was the 11th kid of a wealthy man but born illegitimately to a maid and the other was a beautiful schooled woman born to a University professor and an educated woman.
The story mainly revolves around the war, which has its base roots from the cold war. The Soviet Union before breaking up into pieces occupied Afghanistan in order to spread a communist rule. When there’s an invasion, there will be a resistance and that was how Mujahideen was born. When Soviet troops retreated, a bigger threat fell on Afghanistan. A bigger enemy attacked them. That is the differences that existed inside the Mujahideen.
Oligarchy came into existence and a new resistance formed as Mujahideen broke up into pieces. Hazaras, Uzbecks, Pashtuns and lot more man-made differences and groups began to rocket each other and kill each other over power. During the course of Soviet occupation in Afghanistan, the senior woman – Mariam runs away from her mom to find solace in her dad. However her dad sends back his illegitimate child fearing rejection from his four legitimate wives and as Mariam returns to her home, she finds her mom dead. Suicide. Hence, Mariam was married off to a widowed shoemaker in Kabul by the name of Rasheed who also lost a son to drowning to lift the burden off the family.
The story now moves onto Laila, a beautiful young woman who finds love in her childhood friend – Tariq who had lost one of his leg to war. As Mujahideen fights intensify, Tariq flees Afghanistan to Peshawar with his parents; however makes love to Laila who gets pregnant because of that. After two weeks, when Laila’s parents also decide to leave, a rocket thrashes her house killing her parents and she was rescued by Rasheed who courts and flirts with her. Laila agrees to marry him so as to find shelter and a dad for her unborn baby tricking Rasheed into believing that the baby is his.
The story moves on as the author tells us about the sexist Taliban which forbade women to come out of the house without a male company and those who did so were either slapped, kicked or abused. Rapes and loots were aplenty under their regime; testicles cut and anyone who didn’t live by Koran killed by tying them alive to a vehicle and running them down the streets for hours. That was scary as fuck!
A religion as beautiful and quality-filled like Islam was misrepresented by the Taliban and its followers. Laila bears Tariq’s daughter – Aziza and later to a son ( I forgot his name )- the only person Rasheed took liking to. Meanwhile Mariam and Laila begin to share a common bond after an initial hostility which leads to a mutual sisterhood between them.
The story progresses with white lies from Rasheed and that bastard using his two wives for nothing less than sex and someone to talk to when he felt like and hit with his belt when he felt frustrated. With twists and turns which pave the way of the story of the two wives after an unsuccessful escape attempt, makes me feel that this is one of the best books I had read. Sad but one of the best; reflecting a reality which a majority of the world had failed to see, ignored to see or just couldn’t see.
I have personally known many a people with a common prejudice that Muslims are sexist, polygamous bunch of sleeper cells secretly working for the Taliban or Al Qae Da or some other terrorist organization. That – like most other prejudices is absolute bullshit and this book exactly portrays how the entire community which follows the Islam religion is being stereotyped because of few scandalous, power seeking, sexist idiots (like most country leaders). This book shows the struggles of a common Muslim in Afghanistan and mainly what a woman suffers – in being tolerant with being raped by their husbands, mentally being killed everyday, used as a sex toy and as a boy-delivering tool for a man.
The book also tells about the difficulties of third world countries, about refugees, terrorists and spur of the moment decisions and regrets. Everyone should read this book. It could be found online here for free. I might forget the complete story or the characters of the book, however I will never forget the essence of this book. A book which strikes deep into your subconscious and makes you think is a good book and no wonder this book fits that category.