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A Thousand Splendid Suns    by Khaled Hosseini order for
Thousand Splendid Suns
by Khaled Hosseini
Order:  USA  Can
Riverhead, 2007 (2007)
Hardcover, CD
* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

A Thousand Splendid Suns deftly tells of the last thirty years in Afghanistan. Breathtakingly vivid scenes of the Soviet invasion, and then the reign of the Taliban, and on to post-Taliban rebuilding, bring the consequences of those terrible years to the attention of the world.

While describing the horrors of war with its disregard for human life or welfare author Khaled Hosseini (an Afghani raised in the United States) manages to create a story of almost blinding beauty about the relationship between a cruel and brutal man's first and second wife. Nothing about their lives was beautiful, but the love that blossomed between the two women proved to be a salvation for them both. The devotion and sacrifice shown by one for the other proved to be what kept them putting one foot in front of the other as their days of fear, drudgery and beatings wore on.

Afghani women were not considered by many to be anything more than chattel to be used and discarded if no longer of value. The men preferred their women to wear the burka the garment that covers the woman from head to toe, including the face, which prevents anyone from gazing on another man's wife. But they thought nothing of beating, almost to death, that same woman they were protecting from the scrutiny of lewd eyes.

I found myself speaking my ire out loud as I read this powerful book knowing there was nothing I could do about the circumstances that enraged me. A regime that would lop off a man's hand for stealing a slice of bread to prevent starvation would certainly not worry about a woman's welfare. When the Taliban came to power, their decrees announced their religious fervor to the population they now ruled. Nothing more than a flaunting of power and a subjugation of the people.

In A Thousand Splendid Suns, the moving story of Mariam and Laila is lovingly written with an understanding of each of our needs for another human being to be a part of our lives. It is also the story of man's never ending battle to rule. And of how the everyday person plays their part in the machinations of the powerful. Sadly, this planet's history is bathed in blood and it seems we never learn from the past.

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