When Khaled Hosseini, the author of The Kite Runner, published A Thousand Splendid Suns last year, I wasn’t too keen to read it. It was not that I didn’t like The Kite Runner. But I was concerned that the new book might be just more of the same.
I was eventually persuaded to read it by my daughter, again. It then turned out to be, and not to be, more of the same. Yes, it was about Afghanistan in the past 30 years, and, yes, it was centered around the lives of and friendship between two persons. But, no, the story was told from the perspective of women, the suffering was even deeper, and the human spirit was more feisty, more hopeful.
Mariam was an illegitimate daughter who was given away for marriage when her existence made life difficult for her father. Later she had to share her repressive husband, Rasheed, with Laila, a feisty girl who lost her parents when the Taliban attacked Kabul. They both suffered terribly in their own way. They fought initially, but eventually bonded deeply. Somehow they never gave up trying to escape from their misery.
In the comfort of my home in Hong Kong, it is hard to imagine being given away for marriage, not being able to go out without being wrapped up in a burqa, not being able to go out without the company of a male relative, not being able to go to school, being stoned for adultery, ...
Under the Taliban, the women suffer even more than men. Yet Mariam and Laila never gave up. Eventually one gave up her life to give the other hope.
I like A Thousand Splendid Suns more than The Kite Runner.