A Thousand Splendid Suns
Revision as of 13:01, 3 April 2008 by Alex
|Publisher||Riverhead Books(and Simon & Schuster audio CD)|
|Released||May 22, 2007|
|Pages||384 pp (first edition, hardcover)|
Mariam, an ethnic Tajik, born in 1959, is a 15-year-old girl when the book begins. The story centers around her and the events of her life as they intertwine with Laila's.
Nana is Mariam's mother, who used to be a servant in Jalil's house and had an affair with him. He built her a kolba (small hut) to live in and raise Mariam.
Mullah Faizullah is Mariam's elderly Koran teacher and friend.
Jalil is Mariam's father, a wealthy man who had three wives before he had an affair with Nana. Marries Mariam to Rasheed, but later regrets sending her away.
Laila, an ethnic Tajik, born in 1978, is a young, beautiful, educated girl coming from a lower class family when first introduced. Her life becomes tied to Mariam's when she is forced into marrying Rasheed, Mariam's husband.
Hakim is Laila's father. He is a well-educated and progressive school teacher. He is killed in a rocket explosion along with his wife, Fariba.
Fariba is Laila's mother. In part one, during her brief meeting with Mariam , she appears cheerful, but her happy nature is brutally disrupted by her two sons, Ahmed and Noor, who leave home to go to war and are later killed. She spends nearly all her time in bed mourning her sons until the Mujahideen win. She is Killed in a rocket explosion along with Hakim.
Rasheed an ethnic Pashtun, is the villain of the story. Rasheed, a shoemaker, marries Mariam through an arrangement with her father and later marries Laila by deceiving her.
Tariq is a boy who grew up in Kabul with Laila. They were best friends and eventually lovers.
Aziza is the daughter of Laila and Tariq, conceived when Laila was 14 and causing her to marry Rasheed in very early pregnancy after Tariq and his family decide to leave Kabul.
Zalmai is Laila and Rasheed's son.
The novel opens with the introduction of Mariam, an Afghan girl growing up in a small village on the outskirts of Herat. She lives with her mother, Nana, an embittered woman who is frequently resentful towards her daughter whom she bore out of wedlock. Mariam busies herself with lessons in reading and writing from Mullah Faizullah, an elderly kind-hearted cleric, and weekly visits from her wealthy father, Jalil. Mariam has heard of her father's other wives and children, who live with him at his lavish home in Herat, but has never visited them due to the stigma of her being an illegitimate child.
On her fifteenth birthday in 1974, Mariam wants her father to take her to see Pinocchio at the movie theatre that he owns. When Jalil fails to show up, Mariam decides to travel to Herat for the first time in her life and go to her father's house in person. Jalil refuses to see her, and she ends up sleeping outdoors on the porch.
In the morning, Mariam returns home to find that her mother has hanged herself out of fear that her daughter has deserted her.
Mariam is taken to live in her father's house, where she feels isolated and spends most of her time alone in her room. Jalil and his wives quickly arrange for her to be married to an older widower named Rasheed, who is a middle-class shoemaker in Kabul.
In Kabul, Mariam begins adjusting to her new life as the wife of a man she barely knows. Mariam soon becomes pregnant, and Rasheed, having lost his own son in a drowning accident years earlier, hopes for a boy. When Mariam suffers a miscarriage, her marriage takes a turn for the worse; Rasheed is no longer cordial to her, but verbally and physically abuses her.
Down the street lives Laila, the beautiful, bright young daughter of ethnic Tajik parents - a progressive-minded high school teacher and a mother who mourns the loss of her two sons, who were mujahideen fighting the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Laila has a subtle romance with Tariq, a boy from the neighborhood who lost a leg as a small child to a land mine explosion.
War comes to Afghanistan, and Kabul is bombarded by rocket attacks. Tariq's family decides to leave the city. The emotional farewell between Laila and Tariq culminates in a clandestine tryst on the living room sofa.
Laila's family also decides to leave Kabul, but as they are packing, a rocket destroys the house and kills her parents. Laila is taken in by Rasheed and Mariam.
After recovering from her injuries, including a slight deafness in one ear, Laila discovers she is pregnant with Tariq's child. To avoid the stigma of being an unwed mother, Laila arranges to marry Rasheed, who is only too eager to have a young and attractive second wife, and immediately consummates the marriage in hopes that she can pass the child off as his. A man stops by the house to tell Laila that he met Tariq at a hospital, and that Tariq was now dead.
Laila gives birth to Aziza, a daughter. Rasheed is unhappy and suspicious, and he becomes more abusive.
After an initially rancorous relationship, Mariam and Laila eventually become confidantes. They plan to run away from Rasheed and leave Kabul for Peshawar, Pakistan, but they are betrayed at the bus station by a man they thought they could trust, arrested and returned to Rasheed. Rasheed beats the two women and deprives them of water for several days, almost killing Aziza.
A few years later, Laila gives birth to Zalmai, Rasheed's son. By this time, the Taliban has risen to power in Afghanistan. They have banned television, movies and books other than the Koran, and women are not allowed to work. A drought comes, which eventually leads to widespread hunger and food shortages. When Rasheed's shop burns down, the family is thrust into destitution. There is little food and Rasheed finds himself reduced to working as a porter at a hotel. As their financial situation worsens, Aziza is sent to an orphanage a few kilometers away.
Then one day, Tariq appears outside the house, revealing the fact that the man who stopped by the house to tell the news about Tariq's death was a plan made by Rasheed. He and Laila are reunited, and their passions flare anew. When Rasheed returns home from work, young Zalmai tells his father about the visitor. Rasheed starts to savagely beat Laila with his belt, but Mariam comes to Laila's defense by killing Rasheed with a shovel.
Laila and Tariq leave for Pakistan with the children. Mariam confesses to killing her husband and is executed.
After the fall of the Taliban in 2003, Laila and Tariq decide to return to Afghanistan. They stop in the village near Herat where Mariam was raised, and discover a package that Mariam's father had left behind for her: a videotape of Pinocchio and check for her share of the family inheritance. They return to Kabul and fix up the orphanage.