Khaled Hosseini’s second book, A Thousand Splendid Suns, is the story of the unlikely bond between two very different women.
When Miriam is only fifteen years old a tragic event forces her to marry a man thirty years her senior. Two decades later, when a similar fate befalls Lalia at the same age, Rasheed takes her as his second wife. Set against a backdrop of war torn Afghanistan, there are many parallels between the shifting fortunes of Kabul and the lives of Miriam and Laila.
Amid growing unrest between the warlords of the Mujahideen, Miriam is struggling to please her husband. As years past and she fails to provide him with a son his disappointment turns into bitterness and he treats his wife with contemptuous cruelty. When Laila first joins their unhappy household a tense and uneasy peace descends but when her first child is a daughter, Rasheed's unpredictable moods and violent outbursts resume. It is fear and loathing of their husband and their shared love of Laila's children that eventually draw the women together and a strong bond develops between them. When the Taliban seize control of Kabul, Rasheed takes perverse pleasure in their arrival. His control over his wives is as suffocating and brutal as their Shari'a laws.
The book is divided into four parts with short chapters that move swiftly through the defining events of the story. The crisp narrative does not waste words on anything unimportant and yet leaves no loose ends, no questions unanswered. The author paints a vivid picture of the brutality of war and the savage beatings Rasheed's wives endure, there is a welcome lack of gratuitous gory detail. The story is relentlessly brutal with only brief reprieves in the misery and suffering. Yet it is a story about love, about many loves and mainly about the love between mothers, fathers, sons and daughters. It is a story about the trusting, innocent love a child has for a parent and the all consuming love of a parent for their children.