A Thousand Splendid Suns: A Novel

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After more than two years on the bestseller lists, Khaled Hosseini returns with a beautiful, riveting, and haunting novel of enormous contemporary relevance.

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 ...

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A Thousand Splendid Suns

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After more than two years on the bestseller lists, Khaled Hosseini returns with a beautiful, riveting, and haunting novel of enormous contemporary relevance.

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.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Khaled Hosseini's follow-up to The Kite Runner does not disappoint. Set like its predecessor in war-torn Afghanistan, A Thousand Splendid Suns uses that tumultuous backdrop to render the heroic plight of two women of different generations married to the same savagely abusive male. Born out of wedlock, Mariam was forced to marry 40-year-old Rasheed when she was only 15. Then, 18 years later, her still childless husband angrily takes an even younger wife. Hosseini renders the story of Mariam and her "sister/daughter," Laila, with persuasive detail and consummate humanity. Their abject situation leaves them no emotional space for idle philosophizing; their resistance is from the very core of their being. Truly must-read fiction.
Jonathan Yardley
[The book] going to be another bestseller no matter what's said about it in this and other reviews, so maybe there's no point in going further. But just in case you're curious, just in case you're wondering whether in yours truly's judgment it's as good as The Kite Runner, here's the answer: No. It's better.
— The Washington Post
Lisa See
… Hosseini succeeds in carrying readers along because he understands the power of emotion as few other popular writers do. As he did in The Kite Runner, he uses a melodramatic plot to convey vividly the many aspects of love and the ways people sacrifice themselves for those they hold dear. With A Thousand Splendid Suns, Hosseini has shown that he doesn’t intend to be a one-hit wonder. It will be interesting to see where he goes from here.
— The New York Times
Entertainment Weekly
Hosseini's depiction of Mariam and Laila's plight would seem cartoonishly crude if it were not, by all accounts, a sadly accurate version of what many Afghan women have experienced. The romantic twists and fairy-tale turns are not so accurate. But, as in The Kite Runner, they are precisely what make the novel such a stirring read. Childhood promises are sacred; true love never dies; justice will be done; sisterhood is powerful. It's unrealistic, and almost impossible to resist. B+.
Family Circle
Inspiring and heart-wrenching, the story delves into love, sacrifice and survival.
Miami Herald
In trying to make sense of the patterns of violence that have consumed Afghanistan, Hosseini unearths the smallest flecks of hope amid the rubble of these women's lives. The hope is this: Despite the unjust cruelties of our world, the heroines of A Thousand Splendid Suns do endure, both on the page and in our imagination.
Los Angeles Times
What keeps this novel vivid and compelling are Hosseini's eye for the textures of daily life and his ability to portray a full range of human emotions, from the smoldering rage of an abused wife to the early flutters of maternal love when a woman discovers she is carrying a baby.
Absolutely read it. It's a revealing look at the lives of the women beneath the burkas in contemporary Afghanistan.
Hosseini sets his story against the backdrop of Afghanistan's 30-year ordeal-the Soviet invasion, the emergence of the Taliban-but it's the soul-stirring connection between two victimized women that gives this novel its battered heart. 3 1/2 out of 4 stars.
New York Daily News
The author's fans won't be disappointed with A Thousand Splendid Suns--if anything, this book shows at even better advantage Hosseini's storytelling gifts.... The title, A Thousand Splendid Suns, comes from a tribute to hope and joy by Persian poet Hafiz, and Hosseini's novel is the story of the sacrifices necessary to sustain hope and joy, and the power of love to overcome fear. Splendid indeed.
Unimaginably tragic, Hosseini's magnificent second novel is a sad and beautiful testament to both Afghani suffering and strength. Readers who lost themselves in The Kite Runner will not want to miss this unforgettable follow up.
Rocky Mountain News
A Thousand Splendid Suns is an important, provocative work. The rich and violent history of Afghanistan provides a backdrop that informs and saturates the story. Hosseini's characters, Mariam and Laila, are unforgettable; their compassion for each other and love for their children is devastating. Hosseini has succeeded in writing another epic tale, a novel not to be missed.
Charlotte Observer
Often, second novels pale in comparison to the first, but this long-awaited story pulls the reader completely into a world of cruelty, despair, pain and poverty and offers hope, redemption and love to offset the anguish. It brings to life a part of the world that the average American knows little about, and makes real for us the very human implications of our foreign policies, long after Afghanistan faded from the headlines.
St. Louis Post Dispatch
In the midst of family violence and the turbulence of war, Hosseini weaves the details of life that sustain us all: children, work, friendship, love, faith. Even in the lives of Mariam and Laila, there are the pleasures of a cup of spiced tea at the end of the day, a newborn grasping a finger, a snippet of poetry.
Minneapolis Star-Tribune
So what is the point of reading this novel? The texture of these characters' journey around the craters of their country is no doubt well known to readers of international news. Rendered as fiction in A Thousand Splendid Suns, however, it devastates in a new way. It forces us to imagine what we would do had we been born to such grim fates.
O the Oprah Magazine
Love may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you consider the war-ravaged landscape of Afghanistan. But that is the emotion-subterranean, powerful, beautiful, illicit, and infinitely patient-that suffuses the pages of Khaled Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns.
Publishers Weekly

Atossa Leoni, who is German-born of Afghan ancestry, was clearly chosen because she can pronounce all the Afghan words-a big plus, but it's the only plus in this bad reading. Dropping her voice on the last word of every sentence, her phrasing is regularly rendered ungrammatical by breaks at the wrong points. Her narrow vocal range makes for a dull and often difficult listening experience. Despite the reader, the book holds the listener thanks to Hosseini's riveting story-an in-depth exploration of Afghan society in the three decades of anti-Soviet jihad, civil war and Taliban cruelty. He impels us to empathize with and admire those most victimized by Afghan history and culture-women. Mariam, a 15-year-old bastard whose mother commits suicide, is married off to 40-year-old Rasheed, who abuses her brutally, especially after she has several miscarriages. At 60, Rasheed takes in 14-year-old Laila, whose parents were blown up by stray bombs. He soon turns violent with her. Although Laila is united with her childhood beloved, the potential return of the Taliban always shadows their happiness. Simultaneous release with the Riverhead hardcover (Reviews, Feb. 26). (May)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

Hosseini's brilliant sophomore novel is powerfully bittersweet as he places two haunting protagonists inside the perilous history of the city of Kabul, Afghanistan. Mariam, the elder, and Laila provide a distinctly female view of over 30 years' of apparent change and suffering in a war-torn country and a small neighborhood. Their individual stories collide and intersect in a poignant tale of rivalry, danger, sacrifice, and love. This program is masterfully performed by Atossa Leoni as she transports the listener into an unblinking world. Highly recommended.
—Joyce Kessel

Library Journal
Hosseini sees whether he can top The Kite Runner's remarkable record--103 weeks on the New York Times best sellers list--with this tale of two very different Afghan women over 30 years. With a national tour. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
This Afghan-American author follows his debut (The Kite Runner, 2003) with a fine risk-taking novel about two victimized but courageous Afghan women. Mariam is a bastard. Her mother was a housekeeper for a rich businessman in Herat, Afghanistan, until he impregnated and banished her. Mariam's childhood ended abruptly when her mother hanged herself. Her father then married off the 15-year-old to Rasheed, a 40ish shoemaker in Kabul, hundreds of miles away. Rasheed is a deeply conventional man who insists that Mariam wear a burqa, though many women are going uncovered (it's 1974). Mariam lives in fear of him, especially after numerous miscarriages. In 1987, the story switches to a neighbor, nine-year-old Laila, her playmate Tariq and her parents. It's the eighth year of Soviet occupation-bad for the nation, but good for women, who are granted unprecedented freedoms. Kabul's true suffering begins in 1992. The Soviets have gone, and rival warlords are tearing the city apart. Before he leaves for Pakistan, Tariq and Laila make love; soon after, her parents are killed by a rocket. The two storylines merge when Rasheed and Mariam shelter the solitary Laila. Rasheed has his own agenda; the 14-year-old will become his second wife, over Mariam's objections, and give him an heir, but to his disgust Laila has a daughter, Aziza; in time, he'll realize Tariq is the father. The heart of the novel is the gradual bonding between the girl-mother and the much older woman. Rasheed grows increasingly hostile, even frenzied, after an escape by the women is foiled. Relief comes when Laila gives birth to a boy, but it's short-lived. The Taliban are in control; women must stay home; Rasheed loses his business;they have no food; Aziza is sent to an orphanage. The dramatic final section includes a murder and an execution. Despite all the pain and heartbreak, the novel is never depressing; Hosseini barrels through each grim development unflinchingly, seeking illumination. Another artistic triumph, and surefire bestseller, for this fearless writer.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781442364196
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
  • Publication date: 5/21/2013
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Sales rank: 383,087
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 5.90 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Khaled Hosseini

Khaled Hosseini was born in Kabul, Afghanistan, and moved to the United States in 1980. His first novel, The Kite Runner, was an international bestseller, published in forty countries. In 2006 he was named a U.S. envoy to UNHCR, The United Nations Refugee Agency. He lives in northern California.

Atossa Leoni has been working internationally in film, television and theater since childhood. Of Afghan and Iranian descent, she was born and raised in Europe and has been living in California for the past decade. Atossa played the female lead "Soraya" in Marc Forster's film "The Kite Runner" based on Khaled Hosseini's best-selling novel.

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    1. Hometown:
      Sunnyvale, California
    1. Date of Birth:
      March 4, 1965
    2. Place of Birth:
      Kabul, Afghanistan
    1. Education:
      B.S. in biology, Santa Clara University, 1988; M.D., UC San Diego School of Medicine, 1993
    2. Website:

Interviews & Essays

A conversation with
Khaled Hosseini,
author of

1. The Kite Runner helped alter the world’s perception of Afghanistan, by giving millions of readers their first real sense of what the Afghan people and their daily lives are actually like. Your new novel includes the main events in Afghanistan’s history over the past three decades, from the communist revolution to the Soviet invasion to the U.S.-led war against the Taliban. Do you feel a special responsibility to inform the world about your native country, especially given the current situation there and the prominent platform you’ve gained?

For me as a writer, the story has always taken precedence over everything else. I have never sat down to write with broad, sweeping ideas in mind, and certainly never with a specific agenda. It is quite a burden for a writer to feel a responsibility to represent his or her own culture and to educate others about it.  For me it always starts from a very personal, intimate place, about human connections, and then expands from there. What intrigued me about this new book were the hopes and dreams and disillusions of these two women, their inner lives, the specific circumstances that bring them together, their resolve to survive, and the fact that their relationship evolves into something meaningful and powerful, even as the world around them unravels and slips into chaos. But as I wrote, I witnessed the story expanding, becoming more ambitious page after page. I realized that telling the story of these two women without telling, inpart, the story of Afghanistan from the 1970s to the post-9/11 era simply was not possible. The intimate and personal was intertwined inextricably with the broad and historical. And so the turmoil in Afghanistan and the country’s tortured recent past slowly became more than mere backdrop. Gradually, Afghanistan itself—and more specifically, Kabul—became a character in this novel, to a much larger extent, I think, than in The Kite Runner. But it was simply for the sake of storytelling, not out of a sense of social responsibility to inform readers about my native country. That said, I will be gratified if they walk away from A Thousand Splendid Suns with a satisfying story and with a little more insight and a more personal sense of what has happened in Afghanistan in the last thirty years.

2. What kind of response do you hope readers have to A Thousand Splendid Suns?

Purely as a writer, I hope that readers discover in this novel the same things that I look for when I read fiction: a story that transports, characters who engage, and a sense of illumination, of having been transformed somehow by the experiences of the characters. I hope that readers respond to the emotions of this story, that despite vast cultural differences, they identify with Mariam and Laila and their dreams and ordinary hopes and day-to-day struggle to survive.  As an Afghan, I would like readers to walk away with a sense of empathy for Afghans, and more specifically for Afghan women, on whom the effects of war and extremism have been devastating.  I hope this novel brings depth, nuance, and emotional subtext to the familiar image of the burqa-clad woman walking down a dusty street.

3. Where does the title of your new book come from?

It comes from a poem about Kabul by Saib-e-Tabrizi, a seventeenth-century Persian poet, who wrote it after a visit to the city left him deeply impressed. I was searching for English translations of poems about Kabul, for use in a scene where a character bemoans leaving his beloved city, when I found this particular verse. I realized that I had found not only the right line for the scene, but also an evocative title in the phrase “a thousand splendid suns,” which appears in the next-to-last stanza. The poem was translated from Farsi by Dr. Josephine Davis.

4. You recently received the Humanitarian Award from the United Nations Refugee Agency and were named a U.S. goodwill envoy to that agency. What kind of work have you done with the agency? What will your responsibilities be in your position as a goodwill envoy?

It’s been a tremendous honor for me to be asked to work with UNHCR as a goodwill envoy. As a native of a country with one of the world’s largest refugee populations, I hold the issue of refugees close to my heart. I will be asked to make public appearances on behalf of the refugee cause and to serve as a public advocate for refugees around the world. It will be my privilege to try to capture public attention and to use my access to the media to give voice to victims of humanitarian crises and raise public awareness about matters relating to refugees.

In January of this year, I had the opportunity of going to Chad with UNHCR to visit the refugee camps where some 250,000 people from Darfur have sought haven.  I had the chance to speak to refugees, local authorities and humanitarian staff and to educate myself about the staggering tragedy unfolding in the region.  It was a sobering and heartbreaking experience and one that I will never forget.  Presently I am working with UNHCR on the Aid Darfur campaign.  It is my intention that my future work with the agency take me to Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan.

5. You present a portrait of Afghanistan under the Taliban that may be surprising to many readers. For example, the Taliban’s ban on music and movies is well known, but many readers are not familiar with the “Titanic fever” that swept through Kabul upon the release of that film, which was shown in secret on black-market VCRs and TVs. How tight a grip did the Taliban truly have on the country? And how does pop culture survive under these traditions?

The Taliban’s acts of cultural vandalism—the most infamous being the destruction of the giant Bamiyan Buddhas—had a devastating effect on Afghan culture and the artistic scene. The Taliban burned countless films, VCRs, music tapes, books, and paintings. They jailed filmmakers, musicians, painters, and sculptors.  These restrictions forced some artists to abandon their craft, and many to continue practicing in covert fashion. Some built cellars where they painted or played musical instruments. Others gathered in the guise of a sewing circle to write fiction, as depicted in Christina Lamb’s The Sewing Circles of Herat. And still others found ingenious ways to trick the Taliban—one famous example being a painter who, at the order of the Taliban, painted over the human faces on his oil paintings, except he did with it watercolor, which he washed off after the Taliban were ousted. These were among the desperate ways in which artists tried to escape the Taliban’s firm grip on virtually every form of artistic expression.

6. You earned your medical degree before you began writing fiction. How does being a doctor compare with being a writer?

I enjoyed practicing medicine and was always honored that patients put their trust in me to take care of them and their loved ones. But writing had always been my passion, since childhood, much as with Amir in The Kite Runner. I feel fortunate and privileged that writing is, at least for the time being, my livelihood. It is a dream realized.

I have not found many similarities between my two crafts, except that in both it helps to have at least some insight into human nature. Writers and doctors alike need to understand the motivation behind the things people say and do, and their fears, their hopes and aspirations. In both professions, one needs to appreciate how socioeconomic background, family, culture, language, religion, and other factors shape a person, whether it is a patient in an exam room or a character in a story.

7. In what ways was writing A Thousand Splendid Suns different from writing The Kite Runner?

Well, when I was writing The Kite Runner, no one was waiting for it!  The difficulty of writing a second novel is directly proportional to how successful the first novel was, it seems.  For me, at the outset, there was a period of self-doubt and hesitation, as well as a recurring tendency to question and reassess my own literary capabilities and limitations. This was especially so when I was aware of the people out there who were eagerly awaiting the book: booksellers, my publisher, and of course, the reading public. This is both wonderful—after all, you want your work to be anticipated—and daunting—your work is anticipated!

Though I did experience some of these apprehensions—as my wife will surely attest—I gradually learned to view them as natural and not unique to me. And as I began to write, as the story picked up pace and I found myself immersed in the world of Mariam and Laila, these apprehensions vanished on their own. The developing story captured me and enabled me to tune out the background noise and get on with the business of inhabiting the world I was creating.

I also think that A Thousand Splendid Suns is, in some ways, a more ambitious book than my first novel. The story is multigenerational, unfolding over almost forty-five years, often skipping ahead years. There is a larger cast of characters, and a dual perspective, and the wars and political turmoil in Afghanistan are chronicled with more detail than in The Kite Runner. This means that I was performing a perpetual balancing act in writing about the intimate—the inner lives of the characters—and depicting the external world that exerts pressure on the characters and forces their fate.

8. Do you see common themes in the two books?

In both novels, characters are caught in a crossfire and overwhelmed by external forces. Their inner lives are influenced by an often brutal and unforgiving outside world, and the decisions they make about their own lives are influenced by things over which they have no control: revolutions, wars, extremism, and oppression. This, I think, is even more the case with A Thousand Splendid Suns. In The Kite Runner, Amir spends many years away from Afghanistan as an immigrant in the United States. The horrors and hardships that he is spared, Mariam and Laila live through; in that sense, their lives are shaped more acutely by the events in Afghanistan than Amir’s life is.

Both novels are multigenerational, and so the relationship between parent and child, with all of its manifest complexities and contradictions, is a prominent theme. I did not intend this, but I am keenly interested, it appears, in the way parents and children love, disappoint, and in the end honor each other. In one way, the two novels are corollaries: The Kite Runner was a father-son story, and A Thousand Splendid Suns can be seen as a mother-daughter story.

Ultimately, I think, both novels are love stories. Characters seek and are saved by love and human connection. In The Kite Runner, it was mainly the love between men. In A Thousand Splendid Suns, love manifests itself in even more various shapes, be it romantic love between a man and a woman, parental love, or love for family, home, country, God. I think in both novels, it is ultimately love that draws characters out of their isolation, that gives them the strength to transcend their own limitations, to expose their vulnerabilities, and to perform devastating acts of self-sacrifice.

9. One of the men in your novel dreams of coming to America, as your family did. He sees America as a kind of golden, generous land. Is that something many Afghans dream still of?

The way Afghans view America and Americans is complex, I think. On the one hand, America is seen as a bastion of hope for Afghanistan. The notion of the American troops packing up and leaving strikes fear into the hearts of many Afghans, I believe, as they dread the chaos, anarchy, and extremism that would likely follow. On the other hand, there is also some sense of disappointment and disillusionment. There is lingering bitterness, I think, about the way Afghans feel they were abandoned by the West—and America in particular—when the Soviets left, a period that was marked by the factional fighting that destroyed so much of Kabul. In addition, there is a growing sentiment, rightfully or not, that promises made by America are not being kept. The average Afghan, I think, had hopes of drastic changes in quality of life, in security conditions, and economic options, when the Americans came to Afghanistan after 9/11. Many Afghans feel that these hopes have not been realized. They feel that the war in Iraq, undertaken so soon after the campaign in Afghanistan, channeled attention, troops, and resources away from Afghanistan. Still, I think most Afghans remain hopeful about their country’s partnership with the U.S. and many echo the sentiment of Babi in A Thousand Splendid Suns, viewing the United States as a desirable place to live, and as a land of opportunity and hope.

10. The women in your story suffer deeply and personally from being oppressed because of their gender, in their homes and in the broader society. Is this oppression particularly onerous in the Muslim world? What can and should be done about it?

This is a complex question with no easy answer. It is undeniable that the treatment of women in some Muslim countries—including my own—has been dismal. The evidence is simply overwhelming. In Afghanistan under the Taliban, women were denied education, the right to work, the right to move freely, access to adequate healthcare, etc.  Yet I want to distance myself from the notion, popular in some circles, that the West can and should exert pressure on these countries to grant women equal rights. Though I think this is a well-intended and even noble idea, I see it as too simplistic and impractical. This approach either directly or indirectly dismisses the complexities and nuances of the target society as dictated by its culture, traditions, customs, political system, social structure, and overriding faith.

I believe change needs to come from within, that is, from a Muslim society’s own fabric. In Afghanistan, I think it is essential for its future that those more moderate elements who support women’s rights be empowered. Barring that, the prospects for success are grim. I am always revolted when Islamic leaders, from Afghanistan or elsewhere, deny the very existence of female oppression, avoid the issue by pointing to examples of what they view as Western mistreatment of women, or even worse, justify the oppression of women on the basis of notions derived from Sharia law. I hope that twenty-first-century Islamic leaders can unshackle themselves from antiquated ideas about gender roles and open themselves to a more moderate and progressive approach. I realize that this may sound naive, especially in a country such as Afghanistan, where staunch Islamists still hold sway and look to silence moderate voices. Nevertheless, I think it is the only way that true change can come about, from within Islamic societies themselves.

11. Are you optimistic about the current situation in Afghanistan? 

I am an optimistic person by nature, so yes, I do remain cautiously optimistic about Afghanistan’s future. But it must be said that it has been a difficult year for Afghanistan. Aside from the challenges of poverty, poor medical care, lack of education and infrastructure, and the flourishing opium industry, we now have a formidable resurgence by the Taliban and their Al-Qaeda cohorts in the southern and eastern parts of the country. They have given NATO and American troops all that they can handle. The ongoing fighting and the lack of security are chief concerns among Afghans, and have an erosive effect on the image of the Afghan government. There is the risk of disillusion with the Afghan government and with the country’s nascent, fragile democracy, and this makes people susceptible to the influence of the extremists.

12. What is likely to happen in Afghanistan if the current government fails?

I want to state first that I have no expertise in these matters and that any opinion I offer is that of an ordinary thinking citizen who follows the news.  That said, I think failure in Afghanistan would be catastrophic not only for Afghanistan but for the West as well. It would fracture the country, and seriously damage the credibility of the west. It would embolden the Taliban, and just as important, those who support the Taliban, namely Al-Qaeda and other extremist Islamic militants. Most ominous of all, it would turn Afghanistan into a safe haven once more for anti-Western jihadis who can gather there and plan their military operations against the United States and its allies.

13. What should the United States and its allies be doing in Afghanistan now?

I will re-iterate my lack of true qualification to answer this.  But it seems to me that U.S. and NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan would have disastrous results. At this point, it seems to me the west has no viable choice but to stay committed to the mission in Afghanistan. Simultaneously, the west has to try to empower the central government and help it gain credibility among Afghans, while doing what can be done to eradicate the opium trade and strengthen the country’s economy in an effort to demonstrate to ordinary Afghans the West’s goodwill and its long-term commitment to their country.  Military effort alone will not bring success in Afghanistan.  This is as much a battle for the trust of the people as it is one against the Taliban.

14. The Kite Runner was centered on the friendship between two men, and the story was told from a male point of view. In your new book, you’ve focused on the relationship between two women, and the tale is told from their alternating perspectives. Why did you decide to write from a female point of view this time? What was it about these particular women and their relationship that gripped you?

I had been entertaining the idea of writing a story of Afghan women for some time after I’d finished writing The Kite Runner.  That first novel was a male-dominated story.  All the major characters, except perhaps for Amir’s wife Soraya, were men.  There was a whole facet of Afghan society which I hadn’t touched on in The Kite Runner, an entire landscape that I felt was fertile with story ideas.  After all, so much had happened to Afghan women in the last thirty years, particularly after the Soviets withdrew and factional fighting broke out.  With the outbreak of civil war, women in Afghanistan were subjected to gender based human rights abuses, such as rape and forced marriage.  They were used as spoils of war.  They were abducted and sold into prostitution.  When the Taliban came, they imposed inhumane restrictions on women, limiting their freedom of movement, expression, barring them from work and education, harassing them, humiliating them, beating them.

In the spring of 2003, I went to Kabul, and I recall seeing these burqa-clad women sitting at street corners, with four, five, six children, begging for change.  I remember watching them walking in pairs up the street, trailed by their children in ragged clothes, and wondering how life had brought them to that point.  What were their dreams, hopes, longings?  Had they been in love?  Who were their husbands?  What had they lost, whom had they lost, in the wars that plagued Afghanistan for two decades?

I spoke to many of those women in Kabul.  Their life stories were truly heartbreaking.  For instance, one woman, a mother of six, told me that her husband, a traffic policeman, made $40 a month and hadn’t been paid in six months.  She had borrowed from friends and relatives to survive, but since she could not pay them back, they had stopped lending her money.  And so, every day she dispatched her children to different parts of Kabul to beg at street corners.  I spoke to another woman who told me that a widowed neighbor of hers, faced with the prospect of starvation, had laced bread crumbs with rat poison and fed it to her kids, then had eaten it herself.  I met a little girl whose father had been paralyzed from the waist down by shrapnel.  She and her mother begged on the streets of Kabul from sunrise to sundown.

When I began writing A Thousand Splendid Suns, I found myself thinking about those resilient women over and over.  Though no one woman that I met in Kabul inspired either Laila or Mariam, their voices, faces, and their incredible stories of survival were always with me, and a good part of my inspiration for this novel came from their collective spirit.

15. This novel has a few strong female characters. How did you create them? Are they based on women you know among your own family and friends, on your reading, on your imagination?

They are not drawn from family members or from people I know. In this respect, this second novel is far less autobiographical than The Kite Runner. Largely they are drawn from my imagination and, even more so, from the women I saw and met in Kabul back in 2003.

16. The Kite Runner was adopted by many reading groups, and by cities and communities as part of their public reading programs. Why do you think that happened? What do you think people take away from your stories?

The Kite Runner is multi-layered, in that it provides readers with cultural, religious, political, historical, and literary points to discuss. But I suspect that also part of the reason it is popular with book groups is that it is a very human story. Because the themes of friendship, betrayal, guilt, redemption, and the uneasy love between fathers and sons are universal and not specifically Afghan, the book has reached across cultural, racial, religious, and gender gaps to resonate with readers of various backgrounds. I think people respond to the emotions in this book.

There is also, of course, international interest in Afghanistan, given the events of 9/11 and the war on terror. For many readers, this book is really the first window into that culture. So there is also a curiosity about that country, which this book addresses to some extent.

17. A movie based on The Kite Runner is now being shot in China. When is it scheduled to be completed? What can you tell us about the movie and the experience of watching your first novel be transformed for the screen?

The shooting wrapped in December 2006. From what I understand, it will be released in the fall of this year, possibly in November.

Being on the set was a surreal experience. Writing a novel is an intensely personal and solitary undertaking.  Filmmaking is first and foremost a collaborative process. So it was strange to see dozens of people running around, trying to transforming this very internal creation of mine into a visual experience for everybody else. It was a unique experience to witness the visual interpretation of my thoughts.

In addition, I learned to divorce myself from the notion that everything that I had put on the page would end up on the screen. Inevitably there is going to be a divide between book and film. But to me, the idea is not how closely the adaptation will measure up to my internal images, but rather how the filmmaker will combine the written prose with the power of animated picture to make a visual narrative that can stand on its merits as a work of art, an entity that is separate from its literary precursor, that can be admired for its own virtues and artistry, while remaining faithful to the core emotional experiences that made the book appealing in the first place.

18. How has life changed for you since the publication of The Kite Runner?

I travel a great deal more than I did before. I have seen places that I might not have otherwise—something that kept recurring to me when I was on the movie set in Kashgar, in remote western China. I have a slew of new friends in the literary and publishing community and have had the honor of meeting and speaking with writers whose work I had admired for a long time. Also, I have been on an extended sabbatical from medicine, and have spent the last two years focusing on my writing, something that had long been a dream of mine. My days are shaped now around the creation of stories. As I mentioned before, I am working with UNHCR to raise awareness about refugee issues. So the publication of The Kite Runner has had a profound effect on my life and has changed it dramatically. But as far as my wife, my children, my extended family, and all of my old friends are concerned, nothing at all has changed.

19. You have visited Afghanistan since you came to the United States with your family in 1980. What was it like to go back? Would you like to return again? Is it possible for you to return now?

There is a line in the book where Amir says to his guide, "I feel like a tourist in my own country."  To a large extent I did as well, when I returned to Kabul.  After all, I had been gone for more than a quarter of a century.  I was not there for the war against the Soviets, for the mujahedeen infighting, or the Taliban.  I did not lose any limbs to landmines and did not have to live in a refugee camp.  There was certainly an element of survivor's guilt in my return.  I felt, on the one hand, that I belonged there, where everyone spoke my language and shared my culture.  On the other hand, I felt like an outsider, a very fortunate outsider, but an outsider nevertheless.

I found that much of the city was either neglected or basically destroyed.  There was a shocking number of widows, orphans, people who had lost limbs to landmines and bombs.  There was also an abundance of guns and I detected a gun culture in Kabul, something which I did not recall at all of course from the 1970’s.

But the most striking thing to me was that despite the atrocities, the unspeakable brutalities, and the hardships Afghans had endured, they had not lost their humility, their grace, their hospitality, or their sense of hope.  I came away very much humbled by their resilience.  I certainly do hope to return there again but have no concrete plans at the moment. 

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 1509 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 5, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    A Thousand Splendid Suns

    This book is equally as good, and as haunting, as Kite Runner. This time the story is about two Afghani women. Life in Afghanistan is wretched enough, but to be a Muslim woman in Afghanistan can be lethal, especially after the Taliban come to power. This book is beautifully written and at times difficult to read, but it's also difficult to put down. Mariam and Laila are wonderfully-drawn characters that will stay with me forever. They made me know just how lucky I am to be an American woman, and how unfortunate life can be for Muslim women in Muslim countries. This book will break your heart, but it will also put it back together again. Highly recommended.

    38 out of 40 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 11, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    radiance of a thousand splendid suns in a woman's heart....

    Yes , I just finished Khaled Hosseini's second masterpiece and I am at cross roads of trying to pen down what the pages made me think and feel. Interestingly, I still haven't completed the Kite Runner but this one, I couldn't put down for a second. The first thing that strikes you about the book is the fact that it is the story of the lives of 2 women amidst a battered Afghanistan, spanning several decades, but more importantly, it is a story written by a man, completely from a woman's perspective. This is even more striking when you realize that this is the same author who made his readers' eyes sting with the accounts of "Baba Jaan" in the Kite Runner.

    I am in no way qualified to critique this masterpiece but I don't want to lose the essence that it left me in me today. As one reads the book, one is made brutally aware of the atrocities that are lashed out on women in different levels of society in different ways. One feels a sense of revulsion towards fundamentalism in all its forms. One is apalled at how close to truth, some of these pages probably are. Yes, the storyline speaks to one geographical area and one socio-political community, and yet as I went through the pages, the paragraphs that left my face moist with tears were not the ones that shouted atrocities, rather the ones that would resonate with any woman today, in any part of the world, in any community, in any faith.

    Whether it was the unshed tears of an incomplete love story, or the sorrow of a woman to lose her child even before the little one made an appearence in this world; whether it was the joy of the same woman to find opportunities where she could be a mother in ways that completed her very existence without ever giving birth; whether it was that friend who would kill for you; that friend who would die so you could live your dreams; at the end of the day this was a story of the best and worst facets of human relationships. No one is without frailties, least of all a woman, and yet what makes you look in awe at the 2 principal characters in the book is their very imperfection; their inability to probably fight their circumstances and yet their ability to be the best they can be.

    The book makes you look at reality head on, makes you lock eyes with the most brutal beast that can get you down, some call it fate, some call it circumstances, I call it my reflection in my mirror. You truly are your own worst enemy if you let that reflection determine your image rather than the other way around.

    Laila and Mariam - the 2 principal characters in the book, didn't live, they merely existed, but somehow in all that they went through, their spirit shone with a radiance that can only be a gift of the Divine. Yes, they are characters from a work of fiction, but as I started to look around me, I realized I have the privilege of knowing a lot of women who may not suffer the physical adversities that Laila and Mariam did, but mentally they could have been reduced to a shell of a human being. Yet these women not only survived but have done so with pride, dignity, with their heads held high. We

    15 out of 18 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 13, 2008

    I Also Recommend:


    Judging from the number of reviews, I must be the last person on the planet to read this book. If you listened to the audiobook as I did, just a friendly warning: don't listen to it in public--because I defy you not to bawl like a baby at parts of this book, especially the last third.<BR/>"Suns" seemed to me like an allegorical tale. Hosseini has written a very observant, photographic picture of life in Afghanistan as seen through the eyes of Maryam, Laila and to some extent Rasheed and Tariq. This is definitely a book told through the women. It is about how each of their lives either expands and painfully, brutally and violently contracts at the whim of the men in their lives, just as Afghanistan is contracting and suffocating at the hands of the Russians, warlords and then the Taliban.<BR/>Hosseini does not spare the reader the pain and despair of Maryam's life, beginning with her betrayal by her father, through her daily life with the "cheerful cruelty" and violence of Rasheed, and Laila's unwelcome entry into it. He describes with incredible realism how Laila's life literally explodes around her. This is a well written book I think most would find interesting.<BR/>I haven't read The Kite Runner, but after reading A Thousand Splendid Suns, I cannot wait.

    12 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 28, 2009

    Excellent Work

    This is one of the best books I have read. The last 100 pages had me in tears. Really made me think about priveleged I am to live in a country like the USA. Very good book,excellent author. Must get!!!!

    10 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 9, 2009

    Heart-wrenching and Touching

    Khaled Hosseini is a very gifted writer. This book blew me away. Hosseini takes you deep into the depressing lives of three central characters and makes you truely get to know them. Books have made me cry and laugh out loud but this was the first novel to make my stomach clench at some of things that happen to these women. I can't wait see more from Hosseini.

    9 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 2, 2010


    Can we ever read enough books that broaden our perspective on the world and help us see other cultures than our own? This book spans 30 years and gives us a glimpse of the history of Afghanistan through the eyes of two Afghani women. These two women, the older Mariam and the younger Laila, both are wives of Rasheed, a cruel, cold man who sees beating his wife as a man's rightful due. Over time, Mariam and Laila form a bond, and this small little ray of hop and kindness is in stark contrast to the misery of their bleak worlds. Once again, after his masterpiece, "The Kite Runner," Khaled Hosseini is treating us to another involving, gripping novel, and taking us to a place and a life that is likely to make us very much appreciate our own accidents of birth into a much easier world.

    8 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2009

    Marvelous Gift!

    I purchased the Large Print edition for my 84 year-old mother-in-law who recently came to live in my home. She was delighted with the gift and enjoyed this volume immensely. When she finished, she was insistent that I find her a copy of its predecessor, The Kite Runner. I completely recommend The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns to all readers, whether the standard print or the large print editions.

    8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 6, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Quiet Desperation

    This is a beautifully written story weaving a stark picture of quiet desperation in a culture that devalues and dehumanizes women. This one eats at your very soul!

    Two others I found completely compelling, heartwarming and ultimately life changing are EXPLOSION IN PARIS, by L. Pirrung and THE HELP, by K. Stockett....SO WORTH YOUR TIME!!

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 24, 2012


    For a 20 something American this book opened my eyes in so many ways to so many intricate details of middle eastern culture as well as providing a heartwrenchingly universal storyline.I feel privilaged to have read it!

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 28, 2012

    Beautiful story!

    I read this story in less than a week. I really enjoyed it and highly recommend it, too.

    5 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 8, 2013

    Khaled Husseini books

    This was a excellent book.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 27, 2012

    An International Must-Read!

    In this spectacular novel, two women named Mariam and Laila meet in the most unordinary circumstance: Laila is nearly killed by a rocket, but her parents are killed. After this, the two learn to become best friends and see that friendship can be the best of things to have during times of crisis. The messages it convey are friendship and sacrifice, because both are always present during these two lives, even when tragedy strikes or disaster hits. I liked how there was everything in a novel, from trials and violence to romance and happiness, all being made into one awesome novel. I didn't like the beginning, because though it told about Mariam's childhood, it got boring at times. I would recommend this for everyone preteen and up, because (parents beware), there is some descriptions of lovemaking (serious), descriptions of gruesome scenes, etc. If you haven't already, read The Kite Runner, the prequel to this, because that novel is also very well written.

    Overall, I would rate this a 9.5, because though it is not one of my all-time favorites, it is still a book I have since added to my collection of my best reads.

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 23, 2012

    A Thousand Splendid Words

    In Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns 15 year old Mariam is a young girl living with her mother in a shack that they were sent to. Mariam’s mother was a maid for Jalil (Mariam’s father) when they slept together and conceived Mariam. A disgrace, Mariam and her mother were sent to this shack in the middle of nowhere. Mariam was no longer able to deal with her mother’s vicious mood swings and biting temper, so she fled to Jailil’s house only to realize she wasn’t wanted. Upon returning to her mother’s shack, she found that her mother killed herself. Miriam is sent to her father who welcomes her, but his wives don’t accept Miriam. Mariam is quickly given to an older man, Rasheed, whom she is to marry. After being Rasheed’s wife for a while; Rasheed turns abusive toward Mariam when he finds she cannot have children. Laila is a girl much younger than Mariam who had a close childhood friend Tariq. Tariq lost one leg early in life. As the children grow up, Laila and Tariq fall in love. Laila’s brothers Ahmad and Noor are fighting in war; when they die Laila’s mother Fariba spirals into depression. Laila finds out Tariq is leaving for Pakistan; he asks her to come with her, but she doesn’t want to abandon the father she loves so dearly. Laila and Tariq have sex before Tariq leaves. A few weeks later Laila and her family packed to leave Afghanistan when her family’s home is hit by a bomb, she is the only survivor. Rasheed takes her in and eventually marries her, making Mariam angry. Laila births two children, the first Tariq’s and the other Rasheed’s. Rasheed turns abusive toward Laila, and Laila and Mariam bond. The women plot to run away from Rasheed and start a new life, but there are many barriers in their way. Some major themes of this story were the desire for freedom, staying strong no matter the battles you’re faced with, and the bravery of women. My likes were Hosseini’s attention to detail; everything was so well illustrated. I also loved Laila and Mariam as characters; they were brave and heroes. I didn’t have any dislikes, this book was life changing. Everyone should read this because of the appreciation it gives you for the life you lead. If you enjoyed this book; I would also recommend Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner or other books about worldly struggle. I gave this book five starts because of how impactful and beautifully written it was.

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 15, 2009


    After reading a thousand splendid suns, i had a clear cut view of the some of the problems regarding sexism in Afghanistan. Throughout the book we follow two Afghani women who face the adversity that their unique societies present to them. This really painted a realistic picture as to the extremely different lives americans live compared to afghanis. I really had a strong feeling for this novel just because you feel the pain and sorrow that these women do. I would strongly recommend this book as well as The kite runner.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 3, 2013

    Highly Recommend

    The Author tells a hard story of a young girl named Mariam who was forced to marry as a child to a old man who was a shoe maker in the hard country Kabul. This story will take you places which you will be glad you never lived but yet it teaches you about the harsh life in this other land. Much sadness but you have many tears of hope for Mariam throughout her life, not so much happiness she ever lived in her harsh life. I will tell you I'm soft hearted and I went though many tissues and kept reading. I came to love Mariam and pity her even more.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 27, 2013

    I Love all of Hosseini's books! This story is tragic but beauti

    I Love all of Hosseini's books! This story is tragic but beautiful at the same time. Even though the novel is sad it is an easy and enjoyable read

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 15, 2013

    I thought that this book was better than Kite Runner.  It is ver

    I thought that this book was better than Kite Runner.  It is very thought provoking.  Highly recommended.  A page-turner.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2013

    LOVE THIS BOOK! Such a life changing novel! It will have you baw

    LOVE THIS BOOK! Such a life changing novel! It will have you bawling like a baby! Definitely recommend it!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 9, 2013

    Loved it

    Brilliant! I finished this book in a day. I just couldn't put it down. It's gripping, horrifying, and heart-wrenching. It captivates the essence of inner strength when you should have none left. It shows the human spirit, our connections to each other, and the power we still have in our own humanity, even when it seems we have nothing left at all. It reveals self-sacrifice, gratitude for life's fleeting moments of joy in an overwhelming sea of despair. I could go on and on. Read it yourself, because it's worth it!

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2009


    I am 200 pages through and am finally putting this one down. I loved The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns received great reviews on this site; so, I kept plowing through it expecting it to get better and it never did. I have never written a book review before even though I have been a reader for 15+ years. I feel like the book has been stalled for some time in the same little house with the same three characters going over the same issues. I definitely prefer character development over plot; so, this should have been a good one for me. It was a let down and the first book in years that I do not feel any urge to finish.

    3 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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