Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A Powerful Look Inside Afghanistan; 'Splendid Suns' One of Best of Year

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A Powerful Look Inside Afghanistan; 'Splendid Suns' One of Best of Year

Article excerpt

Title: A Thousand Splendid Suns

Author: Khaled Hosseini

Data: Riverhead Books, 384 pages, $24.95

Review by MARK PETTUS

The Times-Union

After years of being overshadowed by the war in Iraq, Afghanistan is back in the news, and the Taliban is again making headlines. And now, four years after the release of his highly acclaimed debut novel, The Kite Runner, Afghanistan native Khaled Hosseini is back with another powerful book about his homeland.

A Thousand Splendid Suns is written from the perspectives of two women betrayed and brutalized in the wars and Taliban-dominated peace that preceded the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

Miriam is the illegitimate daughter of a wealthy man from Herat, 600 miles from Kabul. When she runs away from home to live with her father, he rejects her. When her mother commits suicide, Miriam's father betrays her completely and forces her into a marriage with a much-older shoemaker from Kabul named Rasheed.

Laila's father is a former schoolteacher forced to find work as a laborer after the Soviet invasion. Although her brothers have become Mujahideen and are fighting the Soviets, her father tells her, "It's a good time to be a woman in Afghanistan," a foretelling of the horrors to follow. The war is taking place far from Kabul, and she is allowed to walk to school and to have friends, both male and female. Her mother, depressed by the absence of her sons and later by their deaths, seldom leaves her bed.

Laila's best friend is a boy named Tariq who has lost one of his legs to a Soviet land mine. With her father often at work and her mother reduced to a lump under the blankets, Laila spends as much time as possible with Tariq. Their friendship grows into love. When the Soviets withdraw, a brief period of jubilation is followed by a civil war between various factions of the Mujahideen and the war finally comes to Kabul.

Tariq is forced to take his aged and sickly parents to the relative safety of Pakistan, but is reportedly killed en route. Two weeks later, Laila's parents are killed as she and they prepare to leave Kabul as well. …

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