I read a lot of depressing books. But I think I just finished the most depressing book I've ever read (with the possible exception of Sophie's Choice, which I read many, many years ago): A Thousand Splendid Suns, the companion to Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner. This was one disturbing book.
A Thousand Splendid Suns, like The Kite Runner, takes place in Afghanistan. This time, though, Hosseini tells Afghanistan's story through the eyes of women, ending in the mid 2000s. The women are Mariam, born illegimately to a maid and her rich employer, and Laila, a more privileged girl born in Kabul whose life takes a dramatic turn at age 14 and ends up entwined with Mariam's. Hosseini takes on motherhood, love, marriage, abusem, oppression, sacrifice, and freedom in telling Mariam and Laila's stories.
Like The Kite Runner, Hosseini injects danger – or the possibility of it – into every page of A Thousand Splendid Suns. Terrible things happen, over and over again. Afghanistan's bloody and tragic history, from the Soviet occupation to the Taliban, forms the backdrop for the unimaginable devastation, fear and loss that his characters experience. I don't think that Hosseini is necessarily a writer of great literature – he leaves little to the imagination, and can be repetitive in this themes - but he is undeniably an expert storyteller. I commend him for making a complicated situation very easy to follow.
This book has haunted me since I finished it. My god, am I lucky to be a woman living in the United States right now. We have so many liberties that we take for granted, no matter how convinced we are of our fundamental right to enjoy them.
I listened to A Thousand Splendid Suns mostly on audio, with the exception of the last three chapters. I liked the audio version a lot – there's a female narrator with a foreign accent that sounds like it is probably faithful to Hosseini's mother tongue (though I wouldn't know if it weren't) and the story is easy to follow on audio.
If you haven't already read A Thousand Splendid Suns, then proceed with caution. Be prepared for an intense, though ultimately quite rewarding, read.
Hi there, FTC. You want to know if I got a free book in order to write this review? Nope. Audiobook was from the library and I found the hardcover at a used book sale.