A Thousand Splendid Suns

by Susana Fletcher

Let's re-title this book: A Thousand Wrenching Heartbreaks. If it had taken longer than the three days I spent reading this book, I might have needed a Cymbalta prescription. I felt beaten up after each reading. With each new blow, each gut wrench, I groaned and wept and waited for more. Like an emotional masochist I soaked up the raw, chilling pain and paper thin emotion. But I was not defeated; I just knew the payoff was going to be rich.

Khaled Hosseini's second novel, "A Thousand Splendid Suns", is so beautiful a misery it is worth the bearing. The story's main character, not Mariam or Laila, but the wounded and beaten Afghanistan, is a woman who has borne too many undelicate suitors. With the coming and passing of each new abuser from the Soviet occupation to the most recent Taliban, the country bears the scars and yet endures. So apropos a backdrop is this weakened capital of Kabul and the surrounding areas for the stories of Mariam and Laila, and so beautifully painted by Hosseini, that my heart broke equally for Afghanistan's woes.

"Like a compass needle that points north," Miriam's mother tells her as a child, "a man's accusing finger always finds a woman." The women of "Splendid Suns" are too strong and too delicate to have been written by the hand of a man. Hosseini's wife must have written this book. But, alas, Khaled Hosseini has worked wonders. He mentions twice "the sacrifices a mother had to make", one being virtue and the other decency. The irony is, not only did the women fail to sacrifice either, but Hosseini didn't feel the need to spell out the zillion maternal sacrifices that actually did come to pass, such as unanaesthetized caesarean surgery. His perfect descriptions of one selfless event after another do not need a delineating mark on the sacrifice list to be remembered. Truly graphic and gripping is the description of Laila, grasping the poles on either side of the caesarean operating table, her mouth gaped open for the moments before she could process the entirety of her pain.

"A Thousand Splendid Suns" captivated my reading life, and I was happy to surrender. I shouted. I wept aloud. I groaned. I laughed. I sucked in my breath. And at the end, I sighed with the same painful joy that beswept Laila at the end of the book. The disbelief at all that had taken place. The wounds that would take time to heal. The relief that life was now and forever different. And those were just my emotions.

By Khaled Hosseini.
372 pp. Riverhead Books. $25.95.

A Thousand Splendid Suns

1 comment:

  1. A beautiful review of such a powerful book. I too was full of emotion while reading this book. I couldn't put it down, yet at times felt that if I didn't I would simply have an emotional breakdown. I loved The Kite Runner as well.

    Thank you so much for all the great reviews. I am definitely making my list and heading to the library!