The scenario is so bleak and the story so sad that you wonder where the thousand suns are shining. The miserable lives, women in Afghanistan have been forced to lead during the political turmoil of the last 50 years. And probably before that too, in a society where men can marry twice and thrice so easily, beat their wives to a pulp, take away their rights on a whim and treat them as little more than useful cattle.
This is the life of Mariam, born to a father who cannot acknowledge her and a mother who resents it bitterly. Her life is always controlled by other people and the one time she tries to take control; it ends up in even greater disaster. She resigns herself to a life of utter loneliness and suppression. Except for her last brave, swan song.
Yet there is the other protagonist, Laila, beautiful, clever and bold who is always fighting against her circumstances. Beaten down literally and by circumstances again and again, she rises each time to try and carve her own life.
And hopes to see the thousand suns rising on her own city, Kabul.
One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs,
Or the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls
Life in Afghanistan sounds so unbearable to us, cocooned in comfort and security and freedom, that you wonder how human beings can survive such things. Or want to return to such a country. But they do. And it is that spirit which makes the book worth reading. The story leads one on, though it does invoke feelings of guilt and horror.
The characters didn’t really come alive for me. Maybe it is because I know that it is a man writing, but they didn’t seem real flesh and blood characters, or they are far too removed from my experiences. But Kabul and its horrors stay in the mind.
A book to read definitely.