A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

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.

Others’ Thoughts:

Book Mentioned:

  • Hosseini, Khaled. A Thousand Splendid Suns. New York: Riverhead Books, 2007. Print. 372 pgs. ISBN: 9781594489501. Source: Purchased.
Book Cover © Riverhead Books. Retrieved: August 10, 2011.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

kite-runnerHosseini’s novel tells the story of Amir, an Afghan boy, and his friendship with the son of his father’s servant, Hassan.While the differences in their economic status drives a wedge in their relationship, as well as the fact that Amir is a Pashtun/Sunni and Hassan is a Hazara/Shi’a, Hassan will do anything for Amir “a thousand times over.” Yet, Amir cannot look past their differences to see that that their relationship is not the normal relationship between master and servant, but actually a friendship.

“The curious thing was, I never thought of Hassan and me as friends either. Not in the usual sense, anyhow. Never mind that we taught each other to ride a bicycle with no hands, or to build a fully functional homemade camera out of a cardboard box. Never mind that we spent entire winters flying kites running kites. Never mind that to me, the face of Afghanistan is that of a boy with a thin-boned frame, a shaved hear, and low-set ears, a boy with a Chinese doll face perpetually lit by a harelipped smile. Never mind any of those things. Because history isn’t easy to overcome. Neither is religion. In the end, I was Pashtun and he was a Hazara, I was a Sunni and he was Shi’a,and nothing was ever going to change that. Noting.” (pg. 25)

But after Amir witnesses Hassan getting raped, to which he does nothing to stop, Amir decides that can no longer be around Hassan. Their relationship, and that of Hassan and Amir’s fathers change, in light of the incident. In 1979, the Soviet Union invades Afghanistan and Amir and his father, Baba, emigrate to the United States, which forces them to start over and build new lives. Amir moves on, but in 2001, he gets a phone call that sends him back to Afghanistan, back to confront his past.

When I started The Kite Runner I wasn’t sure what had made me avoid the novel for so long. I’ve owned the book since 2004, and I’ve never seen the movie nor had I picked it until now. I quickly flew the first 100 pages, stomaching everything that Hosseini threw at me. I had several friends complain about the subject manner of the book but I’ve read worse.

The story itself has the potential to be very affecting, and the complex and troubled relationship between Amir and his father – and its impact on Amir’s life choices – is interesting, as is the family’s close relationships with their servants, which only leads to social tensions between those who have everything and those who serve. The message of the book is very powerful, and serves as a good reminder of how power a lie, or just hiding the truth, can be.

“When you kill a man, you steal a life,” Baba said. “You steal his wife’s right to a husband, rob his children of a father. When you tell a lie, you steal someone’s right to the truth. When you cheat, you steal the right to fairness.” (pg. 18)

But as for the setting, I know several people have said that they enjoyed learning about Afghanistan culture, but there was nothing new for me. I spent twelve weeks in school studying the Middle East in great detail, and spent almost double that amount of time learning about Islam in church. The Kite Runner, to me, read like every other book about a foreign culture: retell the story in any other third-world country and it would be the exact same.

The writing is extremely simplistic, which at times worked in The Kite Runner‘s favor, but at other times skipped over what I found to be interesting and vital to the story. My interest quickly waned as the story continued. The characters were either saints or I hated them. The only truly “human” was Baba, Amir’s father because Baba has flaws and is not perfect, as Amir comes to learn, and even then his character comes as flat and boring. The Kite Runner has potential and conveys a very important message but, in the end, it fell flat.

Others’ Thoughts:

Book Mentioned:

  • Hosseini, Khaled. The Kite Runner. New York: Riverhead Trade, 2004. Originally published 2003. Print. 371 pgs. ISBN: 1594480001. Source: Purchased.
Book Cover © Riverhead Trade. Retrieved: January 3, 2009.