I finished A Thousand Splendid Suns last night. It was a wonderful book - and a real page-turner. I think it only took me two days to read it (and that's mostly time outside with Kile playing!). This book is by Khaled Hosseini, the author of The Kite Runner, another fabulous book that I highly recommend to anyone looking for a good book.
A Thousand Splendid Suns tells the story of two woman in Afghanistan over the last thirty years. Mariam is a "harami" or an illegimate child of a rich man, Jali, and his maid. He built them a shack outside of town to live in and Mariam looks forward to his visits once a week. When she is 15, Mariam asks to see where Jali lives with his three wives and 11 children and also to see a movie in the cinema that he owns. Jali doesn't show up that day and she goes to town in search of him. When she finds his house, no one will let her in and she sleeps outside. Tragedy ensues and Jali's wives force Mariam into a loveless marriage with Rasheed a much older man from Kabul. Rasheed beats Mariam and is angry with her after she is unable to bear him a son.
Meanwhile while Mariam is trying to survive her marriage, Laila is born in 1979 when the Soviets have taken over Afghanistan. Laila grows up in realitive happiness, goes to school, and is in love with her best friend, Tariq. Tariq stepped on a land mine as a child and only has one leg. As different tragedies play out (too many plot spoilers), Laila is forced to marry Rasheed at age 14 when Rasheed is in his 60's!!! At this time things are really bad in Afghanistan and Laila is unable to go to school anymore or even appear outside of her home without a burqa or a male escort. Mariam and Laila become unlikely friends.
Although I figured out one major plot twist WAY before the end of the book, I still enjoyed it and it was a real page turner. Laila's story particularly hit home as she would only be one year younger than me. And what a different life we lead. I can't imagine having all of my freedoms as a woman being taken away, so much so that you can't even go to a decent hospital and have anethestics during child birth! It was very disturbing. I don't know much at all about how real everyday people live in Afghanistan and Iraq, and this book (as well as The Kite Runner) are real eye openers. It really makes me feel bad for the people and hope that the U.S. does not just abandon them. People should not have to live like this!