Sunday, March 23, 2008

Khaled Hosseini: A Thousand Splendid Suns

Once again reading out of order (rhetorical question: will themacinator ever return to the order she once knew?) I picked up a book I've been looking forward to: Khaled Hosseini's "A Thousand Splendid Suns". One would think that I would know by know that best-selling books that are mega-hits among people not known as readers are not going to be awesome books. Well, what can I say? I'm a perpetual optimist, I guess. "Splendid Suns" was not exactly a disappointment, but it was not exactly a masterpiece, either. I'm in no rush to go pick up "Kite Runner," the book that really made Hosseini famous.

"Splendid Suns" tells the story of women in Afghanistan from the mid '70s to the early '00s through the lives of two women, Mariam and Laila, who I imagine we are supposed to believe are "average." The book would be a whole lot better and more convincing if it didn't try to encompass every important event in Afghanistan in 30 years and every possible outcome for women in nearly every ethnic group in every possible family situation during this time. Who knew that two women could be so representative? Amazing! The writing is prosaic, and the women convincing (even when the plot is not) and their lives are touching. I admit it, I even felt some wet eyes near the end. The men in the story are not nearly as convincing, and are pretty shallowly portrayed as straw men- demons, heroes, scholars- easy to peg from their first appearance.

The book is worth its weight to flush out the day-to-day lives of the people I have been reading about in non-fiction portrayals of these tumultuous and fairly awful years in Afghanistan. War is real, Hosseini reminds the reader, and Mariam, Laila, and their families are (token) people who give us glimpses into it.