A Thousand Splendid Suns: A book review

"Each snowflake was a sigh heard by an aggrieved woman somewhere in the world. All the signs drifted up the sky, gathered into clouds, then broke into tiny pieces that fell silently on the people below. As a reminder of how women suffer."

Just like diamonds hidden under bomb debris, this heart-wrenching story of intense beauty and strength is buried under the surface of the cruel and capricious life. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini is nothing less than an ingenious anecdote with grievous twists and turns that quivers the vigilance of the reader. Portraying the people of Afghanistan in despair, the book paints a vivid image of a decaying nation under erratic and conflicting powers. The scenes are described as–one could not count the moons that shimmer on the roofs or the thousand splendid suns that hide behind the walls, reciting the sorrowful tales of two resilient souls who depicted an imperative strength of courage in desperate times. Even though it recollects a string of events representing loss and suffering, the novel fabricates an air of virtual storytelling as one antagonizes, reading words between the lines. Indeed, it's one of those novels that reminds us of the cruelties that come with the war, pulling on the heartstrings until it shatters the heart to an uplifting end.

"Learn this now and learn it well, my daughter: Like a compass needle that points north, a man's accusing finger always finds a woman."

Set in Afghanistan, the story spans over several years from Soviet occupation to Taliban control, enclosing themes of grief, abuse, education, and the importance of resilience. The repressive narrative illustrates how circumstances flip the visibility when the world around us is set aflame for better and worse.

The tale begins with a young girl named Mariam, who was born out of wedlock in the city of Herat. She lived with her mother on the outskirts, anxiously waiting for visits from her wealthy father. Branded as an illegitimate child, Mariam faces many prejudices in her early life and discovers a void for affection. An impulsive tragedy turns her life upside down. At the early age of fifteen, she was married to a 40-year-old man, Rasheed, who quickly instructed Mariam on what he believes an ideal wife should be: subservient, obedient, and fertile. The likeliness of a fresh start was tainted with mishaps and tribulations. Mariam discovered that her husband was a tyrant in disguise. From a cheerful girl, she was forced to be a dutiful wife held at the mercy of her husband. But how long could she endure the suffering?

"She lived in fear of his shifting moods, his volatile temperament, his insistence on steering even mundane exchanges down a confrontational path that, on occasion, he would resolve with punches, slaps, kicks, and sometimes try to make amends for with polluted apologies, and sometimes not."

Here, the narrative took a different turn as we blinked several times and screamed out in outrage. In the neighborhood, another girl was born, Laila. Growing up in a well-educated family, she beheld ideologies of the new era–one, clamoring against injustice. When life took a wrong turn, she endured the grief of losing loved ones. The war brutally ripped her apart from a perfect life. Orphaned, torn from her love, Laila conceded to marry Rasheed. However, an unforgiving sin gave her the will to live. But, did she make the right choice?

A new set of events took place. A deep friendship developed between Laila and Mariam, and their lives intertwined most unexpectedly. One innocent yet keeping an unforgiving secret and another bitter with age and burdened with oppression. Both, still with a glimmer of hope in their eyes, ventured on a new journey.

"It's our lot in life, Mariam. Women like us. We endure. That's all we have."

The catastrophic war, abuse, and injustice came in like a black hole pulling them towards its gaping mouth. But, unlike the void where light is inconspicuous, they managed to find a glimmer of hope. They strives to break free, muddling through life, trying to find joy through the gloom,

even if it's for a brief moment. The question is, did they reach the echo point of their destiny?

A land where it is a crime for a woman to step out of their house to see their children. A land that forbids women to speak or laugh without permission. Mariam and Laila attempted to seek freedom in the man's world that offered so little. The novel did a splendid job depicting a brilliant tale of feminism and startling heroism. While there is much darkness and pain throughout the book, Hosseini never allows the story's emotional tone to descend into a melodrama. There is wallowing, there is suffering, there is a loss, but there is no surrender. These women absorbed tremendous blows, both figuratively and literally, but never gave up on their will to live. The fate of one of the characters is simply a perfect summation of the strength and dignity that is the heart of this story. Khalid also did a confounding job in illustrating the plight and cry of the once vibrant city of Afghanistan. It is a fable of endurance and courage that comes with love and the inevitable strife. The characterization and setting make it one of the best novels that every man and woman should read and manifest.

"A young Mariam is sitting at the table making a doll by the glow of an oil lamp. She's humming something. Her face is smooth and youthful, her hair washed, combed back. She has all her teeth."

"The little girl looks up. Put down the doll. Smiles. Laila jo?"

-Siddhant Dungdung and Ritika