A Thousand Splendid Suns

By: Khaled Hosseini
2007
Fiction
Subject Matter: Families; Afghanistan
Rating: 5/5

 

A Thousand Splendid Suns book cover

Deep. Breath.

A Thousand Splendid Suns is heavy stuff.

I approached this one with a lot of skepticism. Khaled Hosseini is most well-known for his enormously famous book The Kite Runner, which I have never read. But I have most certainly heard of it, and I have a tendency to immediately take any bestseller with a grain of salt.

And the topic of Hosseini’s choice? Afghanistan. I expected some moralistic, sad, anti-West or anti-East painting-the-bad-guy type of story that people have to like and gets added to Oprah’s Book Club because it deals with the hard issues. I expected some trope September 11th, Bush, bin Laden centered drama, and was especially wary in light of the recent events with ISIS (or ISIL or IS or Daesh or whatever it’s called).

(N.B.: I don’t mean any disrespect AT ALL toward the events of September 11th, 2001. Never forget. My comments refer only to sensationalism.)

But this?

This is not that at all.

This is one of the most beautifully written, heartbreaking, wonderfully full-circle stories I have ever read.

It is difficult reading, at times sickening. Hosseini is not afraid to go behind closed doors and into minds and expose humanity and inhumanity in all its nakedness. This is not a novel for the faint of heart.

I like that copyright page lists “families” as a subject, ahead of the perhaps more obvious “Afghanistan.” Because it’s true. While there’s a deep-seeded love for Afghanistan weaved into every chapter of this book (the title comes from an ode to Kabul), it isn’t necessarily a book about Afghanistan. It is a book about family, and love, and death, and mourning, and disillusionment, and regret, and pain, and friendship.

It is elegant and raw.

It is gentle and rough.

It is beautiful and ugly.

It is everything a novel should be, and more.

 

*****

 

If you are a Hosseini fan, here are some suggestions:

(for more books about Afghanistan / conflict in the Middle East)

The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai

(for more by Hosseini)

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

(for painful, beautiful fictional stories based around real events)

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

Night by Elie Wiesel

Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton

 

Coming up:

The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber

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