A Thousand Splendid Suns
Updated: Apr 1
"Every street of Kabul is enthralling to the eye
Through the bazaars, caravans of Egypt pass
One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs
And the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls"
-Josephine Davis' translation of the poem "Kabul" by the 17th-century Iranian poet Saib Tabrizi
Khaled Hosseini’s mother-daughter story contrasts his first novel, The Kite Runner; A Thousand Splendid Suns focuses on familial dynamics in contemporary Afghan society.
Mariam is only fifteen when she is sent to Kabul to marry the troubled and bitter Rasheed, who is thirty years her senior. Nearly two decades later, in a climate of growing unrest, tragedy strikes fifteen-year-old Laila, who must leave her home and join Mariam's unhappy household. Laila and Mariam are to find consolation in each other, their friendship to grow as deep as the bond between sisters, as strong as the ties between mother and daughter.
With the passing of time comes Taliban rule over Afghanistan, the streets of Kabul loud with the sound of gunfire and bombs, life a desperate struggle against starvation, brutality and fear, the women's endurance tested beyond their worst imaginings. Yet love can move people to act in unexpected ways, lead them to overcome the most daunting obstacles with a startling heroism. In the end it is love that triumphs over death and destruction.
Discussion Questions (spoilers ahead!)
Mariam’s mother says: "Women like us. We endure. It’s all we have." In what ways do Mariam and Laila endure throughout the book?
When the Taliban first enter the city, Laila does not believe women will tolerate being forced out of jobs and treated with such indignity. Why do the educated women of Kabul endure such treatment? Why are the Taliban accepted?
Were you surprised when Tariq returned, and you learned of Rasheed’s deceit?
Mariam refuses to see visitors while she is imprisoned, and she calls no witnesses at her trial. Why does she do this?