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+.
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.
Inspiring and heart-wrenching, the story delves into love, sacrifice and survival.
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.
Absolutely read it. It's a revealing look at the lives of the women beneath the burkas in contemporary Afghanistan.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
[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
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
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.
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.
“A Thousand Splendid Suns is an ambitious work. Once again the setting is Afghanistan, but this time [Hosseini] has taken the last 33 years of that country’s tumultuous history of war and oppression and told it on an intimate scale, through the lives of two women.”—The New York Times
“Spectacular. . . . Hosseini’s writing makes our hearts ache, our stomachs clench and our emotions reel. . . . Hosseini mixes the experiences of these women with imagined scenarios to create a fascinating microcosm of Afghan family life. He shows us the interior lives of the anonymous women living beneath identity-diminishing burqas... Hosseini writes in gorgeous and stirring language of the natural beauty and colorful cultural heritage of his native Afghanistan. . . . Hosseini tells this saddest of stories in achingly beautiful prose through stunningly heroic characters whose spirits somehow grasp the dimmest rays of hope.”—USA Today
“Just as good, if not better, than Hosseini’s best-selling first book, The Kite Runner”—Newsweek
“Compelling”—New York Magazine
“Hosseini revisits Afghanistan for a compelling story that gives voice to the agonies and hopes of another group of innocents caught up in a war. . . . Mesmerizing . . . A Thousand Splendid Suns is the painful, and at times violent, yet ultimately hopeful story of two women’s inner lives. Hosseini’s bewitching narrative captures the intimate details of life in a world where it’s a struggle to survive, skillfully inserting this human story into the larger backdrop of recent history.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“Hosseini . . . has followed his debut novel with another work of strong storytelling and engaging characters. . . . The story pulses with life. . . . Khaled Hosseini is simply a marvelously moving storyteller.”—San Jose Mercury News
“Hosseini’s story . . . rings true as a universal story about victims of cruelty and those who lack the most fundamental of human rights. . . . Hosseini’s work is uplifting, enlightening, universal. The author’s love for his characters and for his country is palpable. In the end, A Thousand Splendid Suns is a love letter to a country and to a people. It is a celebration of endurance and survival in the face of unspeakable tragedy. This is a love song to anyone who has ever had a broken heart and to anyone who has ever felt powerless and yet still dares to dream. And yes, Hosseini has done it again.”—Fort Worth Star-Telegram
“The novel is beautifully written with descriptive details that will haunt you long after you finish reading it.”—Dallas Morning News
“This [novel] tells the startling story of domestic adversaries who discover that survival in a horrific world is nearly impossible without compassion, love and solidarity. . . Hosseini’s prose . . . can stun a reader with its powerful, haunting images.”—Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“Absolutely compelling on every level. It’s nearly impossible for a novel—a work of fantasy and fabrication—to deliver a formidable blow, a pounding of the senses, a reeling so staggering that we are convinced the characters and their dilemmas are genuine. Such a persuasion is particularly difficult when the setting is Afghanistan, a country and culture many see as too strange for recognition, for empathy. But that’s what Khaled Hosseini does again and again with A Thousand Splendid Suns.”—Chicago Sun-Times
“Hosseini has the storytelling gift . . . [A Thousand Splendid Suns] offers us the sweep of historic upheavals narrated with the intimacy of family and village life. . . . 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. . . . Hosseini’s illuminating book [is] a worthy sequel to The Kite Runner.”—Los Angeles Times
“Many of us learned much from The Kite Runner. There is much more to be learned from A Thousand Splendid Suns . . . a brave, honorable, big-hearted book”—The Washington Post Book World
“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.”—New York Daily News
“Hosseini has created two enormously winning female characters in Mariam and Laila, Afghan women born into very different circumstances but who have the same problems.”—Minneapolis Star-Tribune
“[Hosseini] is a writer of unique sensitivities. . . . Hosseini embraces an old-fashioned storytelling unconcerned with literary hipness, unafraid of sentimentality, unworried about the sort of Dickensian coincidences that most contemporary American writers consider off-limits. . . . We are lucky . . . to have a writer of Hosseini’s storytelling ambitions interpreting his culture and history for us with another large-hearted novel. . . . Despite the unjust cruelties of our world, the heroines of A Thousand Splendid Suns do endure, both on the page and in our imagination.”—Miami Herald