This past Sunday my friends and I met via Skype for our second official book club meeting! This month’s pick was A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, the same author as The Kite Runner! Its compelling characters and moving story made it easy to see why A Thousand Splendid Suns sold so many copies and became a staple title on many book club lists when it was first published back in 2007.
The story focuses on two women, Laila and Mariam, who live in Kabul pre 9/11. Born a “harami” (bastard) Mariam strives to be accepted by her father and his wives, and dreams of one day living with them in their mansion in town. Mariam’s hopes are crushed, however, when instead of being taken in by her father, she is married off to the first man who will have her against her will.
Laila, on the other hand, grows up in a loving family where education is considered a precious gift, and the world is full of endless possibilities. When tragedy strikes, however, Laila and Mariam’s lives are thrown together, and the two women struggle to endure as Afghanistan falls under Taliban control.
This month’s discussion was pretty varied! From examining the symbolism of water and Pinocchio in the book, to whether or not the ending of the story is too idealistic, we certainly weren’t lacking in topics to talk about! We still aren’t too sure about all of the references to water in the book, but it certainly was an interesting connection!
By far the most heated debate centred around the character of Rasheed. One of my friends asked if Rasheed could be considered as having any redeeming qualities, and pondered whether or not he was the true villain of the story. Is Rasheed just a product of his upbringing and culture, or is he really just an awful evil man?
As you can imagine there was a lot of back and forth regarding these questions. While in one sense Rasheed could be considered a product of his upbringing and the Taliban control, there are other male figures in the story who live in the same neighbourhood and are much better fathers and husbands. Although Rasheed does provide for his family and offer refuge to Laila (albeit under misleading circumstances), his malicious actions seem to outweigh any little crumbs of good he does in the story.
Overall, A Thousand Splendid Suns was yet again another excellent book club pick! The characters were complex and intriguing, the plot was emotional and moving, and the themes in the story really brought to light the struggles that many women have to endure all over the world.
Rating: 4 Stars
The Bottom Line: With plenty of topics for discussion, the only problem you’ll have at your book club meeting is trying to wrap it up! A Thousand Splendid Suns is a stunning and heartrending book that readers are sure to love.