A Thousand Splendid Suns
|A Thousand Splendid Suns|
First edition cover
|Publisher||Riverhead Books (and Simon & Schuster audio CD)|
|Publication date||May 22, 2007|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover & Paperback) and audio CD|
|Pages||384 pp (first edition, hardcover)|
|ISBN||ISBN 978-1-59448-950-1 (first edition, hardcover)|
|Dewey Decimal||813/.6 22|
|LC Classification||PS3608.O832 T56 2007|
A Thousand Splendid Suns is a 2007 novel by Afghan-American author Khaled Hosseini. It is his second, following his bestselling 2003 debut, The Kite Runner. The book focuses on the tumultuous lives of two Afghan women and how their lives cross each other, spanning from the 1960s to 2003. The book was released on May 22, 2007, and received favorable prepublication reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and Booklist, as well as reaching #2 on Amazon.com's bestseller list before its release.
- 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"
The novel centers around the friendship between Mariam and Laila. It is split into four parts, with a focus on Mariam in the first part, continuing Laila in the second and fourth, and the relationship between the two women in the third part.
Mariam lives in a kolba on the outskirts of Herat with her embittered mother. Jalil, her father, is a wealthy man who lives in town with three wives and nine children. Because Mariam is his illegitimate daughter, she cannot live with them, but Jalil visits her every Thursday. On her fifteenth birthday, Mariam wants her father to take her to see Pinocchio at his movie theater. When he does not show up, she hikes into town and goes to his house. He refuses to see her, and she ends up sleeping on the porch. In the morning, Mariam returns home to find that her mother has committed suicide out of fear that her daughter has deserted her. Mariam is then taken to live in her father's house. Jalil arranges for her to be married to Rasheed, a shoemaker from Kabul who is thirty years her senior. In Kabul, Mariam becomes pregnant seven successive times, but is never able to carry a child to term, and Rasheed gradually becomes more abusive.
A girl named Laila and a boy named Tariq, who are close friends and aware of social boundaries, live in the same neighborhood. War comes to Afghanistan, and Kabul is bombarded by rocket attacks. Tariq's family decides to leave the city, and the emotional farewell between Laila and Tariq ends with them making love. Laila's family also decides to leave Kabul, but as they are packing a rocket destroys the house, kills her parents, and severely injures Laila. Laila is taken in by Rasheed and Mariam.
After recovering from her injuries, Laila discovers that she is pregnant with Tariq's child. After learning that Tariq is dead, she agrees to marry Rasheed, who is eager to have a young and attractive second wife, and hopes to have a child with her. When Laila gives birth to a daughter, Aziza, Rasheed is displeased and suspicious, and he soon becomes abusive toward Laila. Mariam and Laila eventually become confidantes and best friends. They plan to run away from Rasheed and leave Kabul, but they are caught at the bus station. Rasheed beats them and deprives them of water for several days, almost killing Aziza.
A few years later, Laila gives birth to Zalmai, Rasheed's son. The Taliban has risen to power, and there is a drought, and living conditions in Kabul become poor. Rasheed's workshop burns down, and he is forced to take jobs for which he is ill-suited. Rasheed sends Aziza to an orphanage. Then one day, Tariq appears outside the house. He and Laila are reunited, and their passions flare anew. When Rasheed returns home from work, Zalmai tells his father about the visitor. Rasheed starts to savagely beat Laila. He nearly strangles her, but Mariam intervenes and kills Rasheed with a shovel. Afterwards, Mariam confesses to killing Rasheed, in order to draw attention away from Laila and Tariq, and is executed, while Laila and Tariq leave for Pakistan with Aziza and Zalmai.
After the fall of the Taliban, Laila and Tariq return to Afghanistan. They stop in the village where Mariam was raised, and discover a package that Mariam's father left behind for her: a videotape of Pinocchio, a small pile of money and a letter. Laila reads the letter and discovers that Jalil regretted sending Mariam away. Laila and Tariq return to Kabul and fix up the orphanage, where Laila starts working as a teacher. Laila is pregnant with her third child, and if it is a girl, Laila has already named her.
In order of appearance:
- Mariam, is an ethnic Tajik born in Herat, 1959. She is the illegitimate child of Jalil and Nana, and suffers shame throughout her childhood because of the circumstances of her birth.
- Nana is Mariam's mother and a former servant of Jalil. Mariam's birth is the result of an assault between Nana and Jalil. Jalil's favoritism toward his wives and legitimate children leaves Nana bitter at Jalil. She hangs herself when Mariam is fifteen, after Mariam journeys to Jalil's house on her birthday, which Nana perceives to be betrayal, and regards it an act of desertion.
- Mullah Faizullah, a Sufi, is Mariam's elderly Koran teacher and friend. He dies of natural causes in 1989.
- Jalil is Mariam's father, a wealthy man who had three wives before he produced Mariam. He marries Mariam to Rasheed after Nana's death, but later regrets sending her away. He dies in 1987.
- Laila is an ethnic Tajik. Born in 1978 to Hakim and Fariba, she is a beautiful and intelligent girl coming from a family in which the father is university-educated and a teacher. Her life becomes tied to Mariam's when she marries Rasheed (Mariam's husband) as his second wife. Towards the end of the novel she becomes a school teacher at the orphanage where Aziza had stayed.
- Hakim is Laila's father. He is a well-educated and progressive school teacher. He is killed in a rocket explosion along with Fariba.
- Fariba is Laila's mother. In Part One, during her brief meeting with Mariam, she is shown as cheerful, but her happy nature is brutally disrupted when her two sons, Ahmad and Noor, leave home to go to war and are later killed. She spends nearly all of her time in bed mourning her sons until the Mujahideen are victorious. She is killed in a rocket explosion along with Hakim.
- Rasheed is an ethnic Pashtun, a shoemaker, and the antagonist of the novel. He marries Mariam through an arrangement with Jalil and later marries Laila as well. After suffering years of domestic abuse at his hands, Mariam bludgeons Rasheed to death with a shovel during a violent struggle.
- Tariq, an ethnic Pashtun born in 1976, is a boy who grew up in Kabul with Laila. He lost a leg to a land mine at age 5. They eventually evolve from best friends to lovers and, after a decade of separation, are married and expecting a child by the end of the novel.
- Aziza is the daughter of Laila and Tariq, conceived when Laila was 14. Her conception incites Laila to marry Rasheed when the news of Tariq's alleged death arrives; she does this in order to hide the child's illegitimacy and provide for herself. Aziza is born in the spring of 1993 and becomes a peacemaking figure between Mariam and Laila when her cries for Mariam's attention trigger Mariam's maternal instinct and respect for Laila.
- Zalmai, born in September 1997, is Laila and Rasheed's spoiled son. Despite the conditions presented onto his mother and figurative aunt (Mariam), Zalmai idolizes Rasheed and is unaware of the fact that Mariam killed him. At the end of the novel, Zalmai continuously asks about Rasheed to Laila, who lies to him saying he simply left for some time. After initially blaming Tariq for his father's mysterious disappearance, he comes to accept Tariq as a father-figure.
Critical reaction 
Time magazine's Lev Grossman placed it at number three in the Top 10 Fiction Books of 2007, and praised it as a "dense, rich, pressure-packed guide to enduring the unendurable." Jonathan Yardley said in the Washington Post "Book World": "Just in case you're wondering whether Khaled Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns is as good as The Kite Runner, here's the answer: No. It's better."
Columbia Pictures owns the movie rights to the novel, but production has yet to begin; Steven Zaillian is currently writing a screenplay and is also slated to direct, Scott Rudin has signed on as a producer. The movie is expected to be released in 2015.
- "A Thousand Splendid Suns". Penguin.com (USA). Penguin Group USA. c. 2008. Archived from the original on 21 May 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-03.
- "A Thousand Splendid Suns". Kirkus Reviews. March 1, 2007. Archived from the original on 2007-10-17. Retrieved 2007-04-12.
- "Monday's Reviews Today: Hosseini's Second and a Scientific Look at Dieting". Publishers Weekly. February 23, 2007. Retrieved 2007-04-12.[dead link]
- "A Thousand Splendid Suns". Library Journal (review archived at MARINet). January 2007. Retrieved 2007-04-12.
- "Kabul", oldpoetry.com
- Grossman, Lev; "The 10 Best Fiction Books"; Time magazine; December 24, 2007; Pages 44 - 45.
- Grossman, Lev; Top 10 Fiction Books; time.com
- Yardley, Jonathan. The Washington Post "Book World". May 20, 2007
- Siegel, Tatiana Zaillian takes shine to 'Suns', Variety (16 September 2007)