Adult, Book Reviews, contemporary, Fiction, Historical

BOOK REVIEW : A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS BY KHALED HOSSEINI

TITLE : A Thousand Splendid Suns

AUTHOR : Khaled Hosseini

GENRE : Historical Fiction, Contemporary

FBRC RATING : ⭐⭐⭐⭐ ⭐ ( 5 Stars)

SYNOPSIS :

A Thousand Splendid Suns is a breathtaking story set against the volatile events of Afghanistan’s last thirty years—from the Soviet invasion to the reign of the Taliban to post-Taliban rebuilding—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.

Propelled by the same storytelling instinct that made The Kite Runner a beloved classic, A Thousand Splendid Suns is at once a remarkable chronicle of three decades of Afghan history and a deeply moving account of family and friendship. It is a striking, heart-wrenching novel of an unforgiving time, an unlikely friendship, and an indestructible love—a stunning accomplishment.

FBRC REVIEW :

I am so happy I finally did it. I read the three books written by Khaled Hosseini. To say this was an experience would still be an understatement. When I decided to start this year by marathoning Khaled Hosseini books, I really didn’t know what I was going to put myself through. I don’t think I have read a story with so much heartbreak and devastation that has the capability to grip the readers so thoroughly. I was pulled by the masterful storytelling of Hosseini and didn’t want to put it down, but at the same time, I was unable to continue the story in one stretch as my heart could take no more of the pain these characters experienced. It was really difficult to get through the hardships they went through.

The story is crafted around two women who were victimized repeatedly by the same person and how they find themselves supporting one another through their life journey. This book destroyed me completely and I could relate to a lot of the cultural practices that abuse the rights of women. These practices are often carried out under the guise of being Islamic. The lack of women’s education in Islam is one of the reasons why a lot of women tend to put up with the abuse for so long thinking it is what’s prescribed in Islam. The men who are appointed as protectors of the women are often the ones who misuse, abuse and mistreats them. The horrific situations these women have to go through on a daily basis and having to wake up each day to face it all over again shows the courage and the strength these women possess. I don’t think I will ever be the same after reading this story. The impact of it is indescribable and leaves a mark that will stay on forever haunting you.

Let’s just say the journey I had through his books were nothing but the best of storytelling there was. The books were raw and gripping. It will rip your heart out and break it into a million pieces and then glue them back together, though not perfect but still beautiful in its own imperfect way. I loved every single one of them and A thousand Splendid Suns managed to tear me up and make me so angry at how much suffering Mariam and Laila had to endure to just live as a woman in a country that’s war-torn, brimming with inequality, injustice, and abuse. It saddens me to no end to think about a lot of women who do live in some of the countries do have to go through these kinds of difficulties just to survive.

The story is about two women whose lives get intertwined unexpectedly and having to live with one another at odds with each other but at the end finding friendship and trust that will help them move forward with hope. The stories were so well crafted that it managed to portray a wide range of human emotions very realistically. I loved the way they managed to find the silver lining in their otherwise dark lives. These stories are not for the faint-hearted and one needs to have a strong heart to experience all these emotions and still be intact at the end of it.

Mariam is so amazing as a character in this book. We follow her through her life from childhood to adulthood. We see her being the innocent, young and naive little hoping and holding onto the idea of her father that she built in her head even though her mom told her differently. She is on a daily basis abused by her mom who is depressed. Her mom is this angry, resentful woman who was scorned by Mariam’s father and discarded by him. She also deals with a lot of health issues both mental and physical. We see how her childhood impacts her life and the guilt she carries through her early teenage years. The ways her father’s wives treat her and how her father got away with a lot of his bad behavior is saddening. He is excused from his mistakes and often times the culture dictates the women to be punished for their mistakes and the men can get out of it easily.  It’s astounding these practices still prevail in certain parts of countries like India, Pakistan, Afganistan and Bangladesh.

Her strength, commitment, loyalty, forgiveness, compassion are all great qualities that along with her submission to her husband makes her so real. I saw her in a lot of people I know personally in my life. Her faith is what carries her through her hardships in life, not finding any hope in God after her mother’s death, her child-marriage, marital-rape, the abuse both physical and mental, the pressure to birth a boy all of it is so well portrayed and brought to the surface in this story. These books bring out the more tribal, backward and ignorant mentality by which a lot of these communities live by. The situation of women in these parts of the world is dire and often their rights are taken away from them by the very same people who are supposed to provide for them. The hypocrisy of men and their rules that benefit them is very evident through Rasheed’s actions and words. To put all of it under the cover of Islam and making women obey them is injustice at its peak. Culturally a lot of these events were things that I could relate to.  We were taught often growing up the cultural practices that were pushed forward under the banner of religion. The problem with this is the lack of education for women in theology. If we as women were knowledgeable in our religion then we would have had our chance to fight back with conviction. Sadly a lot of women are resigned to live their life, sacrifice themselves for the sake of family, kids and so on. They accept their lives and stop moving forward. We see the resignation in Mariam and how she tries to garner the affection of her husband and how eager she is to make a go of their life even though it wasn’t her choice to be part of it.

Rasheed is so manipulative, egocentric and his ideals are so deeply entrenched in the patriarchy and toxic masculinity that there is no way out of that pit of darkness. He is abusive, repulsive and lacks common decency. Every time I read about him I could feel myself getting angry and disgusted by his type of personality. The man is a pedophile, predator and a rapist. He is the worst of humankind in my opinion and everything that Islam despises in a man. The way he manipulates them into thinking he is protecting them and then lying his way into getting his agenda fulfilled is deplorable. If there was a character that I loathed in my entirety of life then it’s this man. The level of hatred he manages to bring forward in the reader is just astonishing. I have to say the privilege he enjoys as a man in a country that practices Islam under the heavy influence of culture is so extensive that the balance of justice is swayed in his direction every single time. The women folk are always vulnerable and live their lives hidden away from the real world.

Layla and Tariq’s story was filled with childhood memories, tender moments, intimate snapshots that get broken with no hope for a future suddenly. The break of their relationship showcases her vulnerability and her maturity in choosing her family and holding onto it. The tragedy that strikes these people is devastating and having to live through one emotional turmoil after the other only to be pushed into a manipulative situation no young girl should be put through breaks my heart.  Her sacrificing her own ethics to protect her baby and to live through years of being lied to, having to live with someone just to protect one’s honor is heartbreaking to see. We see far more maturity in these women as teenagers and to see them walk through life with strength, hope, and kindness even after being degraded and stripped of one’s dignity is astounding and distressing to watch.

Every event that happened in this story is very much possible to happen in some of the nations above mentioned with or without war. The suffering the people have to go through, the hope that they will have a better future even after facing the worst nightmare shows us the strength these people possess emotionally. I loved their delicate friendship that Mariam and Layla formed during their intertwined lives and how well they supported one another. The simple acceptance of the two of each other’s role made their dark home lives bearable. The reality of these imprisoned women in their own houses by their own husbands is often beyond what we can comprehend and yet they manage to live and still continue their journey with little to no complaints.

This book is what I call a heavy dose of a wake-up call to all the desi communities that manage to infringe upon the right of women under the guise of Islam. If you haven’t read this book, then definitely check it out. It will take a person with a stronger heart to get through the story and will leave you with a battered heart. As all Khaled Hosseini books, this story leaves us with hope, love, and happiness in the end. It will make us believe that there is light at the end of the tunnel, no matter however dark it is. I gave it 5 stars and it was better and more heart-wrenching in every way than The Kite Runner was and that is saying something because The Kite Runner was not short of emotional turmoil and devastation. I highly recommend reading this book and be assured that you will never regret it.

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