Fiction — print. Riverhead Books, 2007. 372 pgs. Purchased.
Set against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan to the Taliban takeover to the U.S. invasion, Hosseini’s novel introduces readers to two women. Mariam grew up in a mud house on the outskirts of the city with her mother, who calls her harami (bastard). She idolizes her father, Jalil, and looks forward to his weekly visits, but what she wants more than anything is to go with him and his other children to see a movie at the cinema her father owns.
On her fifteenth birthday, her father does not show to take her to the movies so she decides to travel to the city and see him. This decision sets off a terrible chain of events that dominate the rest of the novel, including a marriage to an abusive man. Years later, fourteen-year-old Laila loses her parents to war and Mariam takes the young girl into her home to nurse her back to health. Faced without options, Laila agrees to become Mariam’s husband’s second wife.
Overall, the novel is readable and more enjoyable than his first novel. I like how he illustrated the shifts in the political and social climate of Afghanistan through the different regimes. And I think he did a good job showing the terrible situations women faced in this country.
Part one, which details Mariam’s childhood, sucked me in completely. My heart was breaking for this young girl! But the jump in part two to Laila’s childhood lost me completely. I never connected with her the way I did with Mariam, and I began to feel like she was an intrusion into the novel. And the ending of the book seemed out of character and did not fit with the story. I felt like the story was not taken in the direction I wanted/needed it go.