Book Review- A Thousand Splendid Suns
One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs, Or the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her -walls.
This is my first Khaled Hosseini book. I have heard that the kite runner was probably his best book. However, since I had already seen the movie, I preferred to pick this book up instead.
A Thousand Splendid Suns is a book that revolves around two women, separated by a generation, in an Afghan society- Mariam and Laila. It is a journey of their individual lives that intersects at some point and how two strangers become acquaintances then rivals and finally develop a mother-daughter relation.
Below are some of the beautifully lines from the book. If the writing style impresses you, you should definitely read this one.
- When the bus jerked forward, she did not turn to see him trotting alongside it. And when the bus pulled away, she did not look back to see him receding, to see him disappear in the cloud of exhaust and dust.
- What Mariam felt now, as the loaded clotheslines bounced heavily before her, was sorrow for Rasheed. He too had had a hard life, a life marked by loss and sad turns of fate. Her thoughts returned to his boy Yunus, who had once built snowmen in this yard, whose feet had pounded these same stairs. The lake had snatched him from Rasheed, swallowed him up, just as a whale had swallowed the boy’s namesake prophet in the Koran. It pained Mariam-it pained her considerably-to picture Rasheed panic-stricken and helpless, pacing the banks of the lake and pleading with it to spit his son back onto dry land. And she felt for the first time a kinship with her husband. She told herself that they would make good companions after all.
- “You make the night to pass into the day and You make the day to pass into the night,and You bring forth the living from the dead and You bring forth the dead from the living, and You give sustenance to whom You please without measure.” She patted the dirt with the back of the shovel.She squatted by the mound, closed her eyes.
Give sustenance, Allah.
Give sustenance to me.
- Now Mariam dreaded the sound of him coming home in the evening. The key rattling, the creak of the door- these were sounds that set her heart racing. From her bed, she listened to the click-clack of his heels, to the muffled shuffling of his feet after he’d shed his shoes. With her ears, she took inventory of his doings: chair legs dragged across the floor, the plaintive squeak of the cane seat when he sat, the clinking of spoon against plate, the flutter of newspaper pages flipped, the slurping of water. And as her heart pounded, her mind wondered what excuse he would use that night to pounce on her. There was always something, some minor thing that would infuriate him, because no matter what she did to please him, no matter how thoroughly she submitted to his wants and demands, it wasn’t enough. She could not give him his son back. In this most essential way, she had failed him-seven times she had failed him-and now she was nothing but a burden to him. She could see it in the way he looked at her,when he looked at her. She was a burden to him.
- How many times had she, Hasina, and Giti said those same three words to each other, Laila wondered, said it without hesitation, after only two or three days of not seeing each other? /missed you, Hasina Oh, I missed you too. In Tariq’s grimace, Laila learned that boys differed from girls in this regard. They didn’t make a show of friendship. They felt no urge, no need, for this sort of talk. Laila imagined it had been this way for her brothers too. Boys, Laila came to see, treated friendship the way they treated the sun: its existence undisputed; its radiance best enjoyed, not beheld directly
- Mammy was soon asleep, leaving Laila with dueling emotions: reassured that Mammy meant to live on, stung thatshe was not the reason.She would never leave her mark on Mammy’s heart the way her brothers had, because Mammy’s heart was like a pallid beach where Laila’s footprints would forever wash away beneath the waves of sorrow that swelled and crashed, swelled and crashed.
- Laila remembered Mammy telling Babi once that she had married a man who had no convictions. Mammy didn’t understand. She didn’t understand that if she looked into a mirror, she would find the one unfailing conviction of his life looking right back at her.
- With the passing of time, she would slowly tire of this exercise. She would find it increasingly exhausting to conjure up, to dust off, to resuscitate once again what was long dead. There would come a day, in fact, years later, when Laila would no longer bewail his loss. Or not as relentlessly; not nearly. There would come a day when the details of his face would begin to slip from memory’s grip, when overhearing a mother on the street call after her child by Tariq’s name would no longer cut her adrift. She would not miss him as she did now, when the ache of his absence was her unremitting companion like the phantom pain of an amputee.
- Laila examined Mariam’s drooping cheeks, the eyelids that sagged in tired folds, the deep lines that framed her mouth-she saw these things as though she too were looking at someone for the first time. And, for the first time, it was not an adversary’s face Laila saw but a face of grievances unspoken, burdens gone unprotested, a destiny submitted to and endured. If she stayed, would this be her own face, Laila wondered, twenty years from now?
- Almost ten years had passed since they had last seen each other. Laila’s mind flashed to all the times they’d met in the alley, kissing in secret. She wondered how she must seem to him now. Did he still find her pretty? Or did she seem withered to him, reduced, pitiable, like a fearful, shuffling old woman? Almost ten years. But, for a moment, standing there with Tariq in the sunlight, it was as though those years had never happened. Her parents’ deaths, her marriage to Rasheed, the killings, the rockets, the Taliban, the beatings, the hunger, even her children, all of it seemed like a dream, a bizarre detour, a mere interlude between that last afternoon together and this moment.
- Mariam lost count of how many times the belt cracked, how many pleading words she cried out to Rasheed, how many times she circled around the incoherent tangle of teeth and fists and belt, before she saw fingers clawing at Rasheed’s face, chipped nails digging into his jowls and pulling at his hair and scratching his forehead. How long before she realized, with both shock and relish, that the fingers were hers.
- “I have a picture of my father,” he said. “I don’t remember him. He was a bicycle repairman once, I know that much. But I don’t remember how he moved, you know, how he laughed or the sound of his voice.” He looked away, then back at Mariam. “My mother used to say that he was the bravest man she knew. Like a lion, she’d say. But she told me he was crying like a child the morning the communists took him. I’m telling you so you know that it’s normal to be scared. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, mother.” For the first time that day, Mariam cried a little.
- Mariam wished for so much in those final moments. Yet as she closed her eyes, it was not regret any longer but a sensation of abundant peace that washed over her. She thought of her entry into this world, theharami child of a lowly villager, an unintended thing, a pitiable, regrettable accident. A weed. And yet she was leaving the world as a woman who had loved and been loved back. She was leaving it as a friend, a companion, a guardian. A mother. A person of consequence at last. No. It was not so bad, Mariam thought, that she should die this way. Not so bad. This was a legitimate end to a life of illegitimate beginnings.
- That night, they lay in bed as husband and wife, as the children snored below them on sleeping cots. Laila remembered the ease with which they would crowd the air between them with words, she and Tariq, when they were younger, the haywire, brisk flow of their speech, always interrupting each other, tugging each other’s collar to emphasize a point, the quickness to laugh, the eagerness to delight. So much had happened since those childhood days, so much that needed to be said. But that first night the enormity of it all stole the words from her. That night, it was blessing enough to be beside him. It was blessing enough to know that he was here, to feel the warmth of him next to her, to lie with him, their heads touching, his right hand laced in her left.
- She watches Mariam glue strands of yam onto her doll’s head. In a few years, this little girl will be a woman who will make small demands on life, who will never burden others, who will never let on that she too has had sorrows, disappointments, dreams that have been ridiculed. A woman who will be like a rock in a riverbed, enduring without complaint, her grace not sullied but shaped by the turbulence that washes over her. Already Laila sees something behind this young girl’s eyes, something deep in her core, that neither Rasheed nor the Taliban will be able to break. Something as hard and unyielding as a block of limestone. Something that, in the end, will be her undoing and Laila’s salvation.
Throughout the book, as you progress page after page, the life of Mariam and Laila starts to seep into yours. And if you feel their emotions from the way this book has been written, wait for it!! Because, it is going to make you cry towards the end. The last letter from Jalil to Mariam was so touching, you feel the pain the father felt for his daughter.
It is a beautiful story wrapped in a beautiful coating of words.