A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini.
A Thousand Splendid Suns is marvelous. It begins with the story of Mariam, the illegitimate daughter of a rich man, raised in isolation at the edge of town with only her mother's company, and eventually forced to marry a much older man. The tale switches to the story of Laila, raised by a loving father and a distant grieving mother, and Laila's relationship with her childhood shadow Tariq. Eventually Mariam and Laila's lives become linked, and the story of the two women, one who has never had a daughter, the other in need of a mother, and the relationship that they build with one another. It's really a story about finding unexpected love and strength, how it helps to heal them and fill the empty spaces in their lives.
A Thousand Splendid Suns is a wonderful book, well worth reading. Mariam and Laila stuck with me for a few days after I'd finished A Thousand Splendid Suns, particularly Mariam finding her beauty and worth in the lives of those who loved her. In the end the sacrifice that she makes for her loved ones both redeems and repudiates her own mother's death. And at times I felt that the characters weren't quite as convincing as those in The Kite Runner, Hosseini's previous novel, particularly before their lives are joined. As I read A Thousand Splendid Suns, I was struck by the accounts of daily life in Afghanistan for the women. Hosseini manages to weave the details of war, destruction, cultures and religion, and abuse into the lives of his heroines very convincingly. I looked up from reading several times to look at my children and feel immensely grateful that we do not know what it's like to live in fear, to starve, to have no rights. Hosseini's gift, both in A Thousand Splendid Suns and in The Kite Runner, lies in making such details a seamless part of the story in such a way that they still stand out and strike the reader.