A Thousand Splendid Suns - A Review and Little-life update

After more than 189 weeks on the New York Timesbestseller list for The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini returns with a beautiful, riveting, and haunting novel that confirms his place as one of the most important literary writers today. Propelled by the same superb instinct for storytelling that made The Kite Runnera beloved classic, A Thousand Splendid Sunsis at once an incredible chronicle of thirty years of Afghan history and a deeply moving story of family, friendship, faith, and the salvation to be found in love. Born a generation apart and with very different ideas about love and family, Mariam and Laila are two women brought jarringly together by war, by loss and by fate. As they endure the ever escalating dangers around them-in their home as well as in the streets of Kabul-they come to form a bond that makes them both sisters and mother-daughter to each other, and that will ultimately alter the course not just of their own lives but of the next generation. With heart-wrenching power and suspense, Hosseini shows how a woman's love for her family can move her to shocking and heroic acts of self-sacrifice, and that in the end it is love, or even the memory of love, that is often the key to survival. A stunning accomplishment, A Thousand Splendid Sunsis a haunting, heartbreaking, compelling story of an unforgiving time, an unlikely friendship, and an indestructible love

Oh. my. gosh. First off, *SPOILER ALERTS* I don't know how I can review/discuss this book without completely shattering every plot point. So- spoilers abounding my friends. If you haven't read this book- you should skip this review, go to the nearest library and get it, read it, come back here and then discuss your views of this incredible story. For the record, I am giving it a 5/5 - so worth the read. I was really nervous about reading this book, because I had a very difficult time with the Kite Runner, but it was so different in so many ways and I think more relate-able for me, since I am a woman.

Ok. Now, where to start... (maybe the beginning eh?)  This book takes you on a journey in 2 women's lives that are completely different and end up becoming completely entwined with each other's. This story is about love, loss, war, struggle, heartbreak, abuse, sacrifice, and family. I am near tears just thinking about this story. I think I am just going to have to give you a plot summary because this book truly speaks for itself:

The first character we meet is Mariam. She is the illegitimate daughter of a prominent businessman and so is growing up in a hovel on the outskirts of town. She gets visits from her father, who she idolizes, once weekly. her life is turned upside down when Mariam is 14 years old because her mother kills herself. She is then rushed into an arranged marriage as to not disgrace her father. More about this amazing character later.

Then there is Rasheed- the husband. There were glimmers in this book when I almost liked him. It almost makes me sick that I felt this way about him, since I now know how it all ends, but I was seeing him through Mariam's eyes. He was not unkind to her early on in their marriage and tried to make her comfortable since he knew she was a young, scared girl. I was nearly proud of him for being sweet to her and buying her gifts because I know that's not what the culture would generally teach (from my limited understanding of middle-eastern culture). I was pretty irritated when he made Mariam where a burka all the time in public, but it made her feel safer, so even that was OK for me, for awhile. Then Rasheed starting to become distant, condescending, and abusive... right about the time Mariam starting having miscarriages.

These left her heartbroken and wounded. She was so thrilled at the prospect of motherhood and so crushed when she lost baby, after baby, after baby. I think there were 8 times in all. She was sheltered and isolated from even her neighbors. She wasn't allowed to be in the main rooms when Rasheed had company and had no one to lean on through her struggles. In the meantime, her country is being torn apart by war. First the communists take control and then warlords, and then the Taliban.

And then we meet Laila. What a girl. Laila comes from a different background than Mariam. Her father is a teacher/professor and highly values education. He doesn't want Laila to rush into marriage, because it can wait. She is very close with her father. Laila also has Tariq. He is the love of her life and she is crushed when he tells her that him and his family are leaving Afghanistan. In the grief and emotion of that moment, Laila and Tariq make love. He wants to marry her and take her with them, but she won't leave her father. Luckily, only 2 weeks later her family decides to leave too and as Laila is taking boxes out of her house it is hit by a bomb and destroyed. Who pulls her out of the rubble? Rasheed.
And what would you do with a beautiful, young girl you pull out of rubble and nurse back to health who is newly orphaned with no family? Marry her of course.

As you can imagine, this didn't go over well with Mariam. It went even less well when Laila announced she is pregnant (it's Tariq's- which is why she agreed to the marriage to Rasheed). Laila receives news from a visitor that Tariq has died due to a bombing. This man claims to have spent time with him in the hospital until he died. Laila is crushed, and like Mariam, has no one to share her grief with. However, over time, Mariam's heart thaws towards Laila and her little girl. These women become a family of sorts and a source of mutual support and love for one another. They weather Rasheed's storms together.

Rasheed becomes increasingly violent over the years, once even putting a pistol in Laila's mouth when she fought back during a beating. Laila has another pregnancy and has difficulty with the delivery. She ends up at a hospital for women, which has no medications or supplies because the Taliban are in charge. Laila goes through a cesarean birth without anesthesia. (This scene made me physically cringe with my whole body. I admire this character so much) She ends up giving birth to a son which Rasheed couldn't be happier about, but he cannot feed the whole family. He forces Laila to put her daughter in an orphanage. She fights to see her daughter on a daily basis- enduring beatings from Taliban soldiers on the streets and from Rasheed at home.

Then, one day, Tariq shows up on Laila's doorstep, very much alive and well. This is the point which I could no longer forgive Rasheed for anything he did. He set up this man to lie to Laila to make her believe Tariq was dead so she would not try to run away. APPALLING. On this night the beating was so severe that Rasheed truly meant to kill Laila. The only thing that stopped him was Mariam- burying a shovel in his forehead. At this point in the story Mariam realizes she is choosing her own path for the first time in her life. She sacrifices everything for Laila and the children to enable them to have a good life. A life outside of Kabul's war-torn, bombed streets, a life without Rasheed, a life with her daughter and with Tariq. Mariam is eventually executed for her crime, but without regrets. Laila and Tariq are able to be married and live outside of Kabul for a time, but then return after the Taliban loses power to help with schooling and an orphanage where her dear daughter had to stay while Rasheed was alive.

A. MAZ. ING. This story was so incredible. I loved every word of it. Anyone else out there read and love this book as much as  I did?


I wanted to keep people posted on how I am doing with my  healthy life changing goals. So far, OK. I have had pretty healthy breakfasts all week, ranging from an over-easy egg on an English muffin with OJ to whole wheat waffles with all natural peanut butter and milk to a Fiber One pop-tart in my meeting this morning. I have had yogurt or a dan-active smoothie almost every day and have started my new digestive supplement, Align, which seems to be working out well.
I kind of tanked on lunch yesterday- Arby's hot ham and cheese w/ curly fries. Other days this week I had soups or leftover pasta from home (which was made with whole wheat penne and organic marinara sauce).
Dinners have been OK- baked pasta was eaten a few times (gotta love the leftovers!). Two nights ago I made my Mexican rice w/ tortillas - super super super easy meal!! Ready in 10 min!! Here's the recipe:

White Rice (I prefer the 5 min rice)
frozen corn,
can of salsa

Cook rice first, add in salsa. I like the steam-fresh frozen veggies, so I add my corn in already cooked, but you don't need too. Toast the tortillas in the oven if you want! That's all there is to it and you can add as much other schtuff as you want to the rice mix. I have had friends make it with black beans and onions too. Super yummy.

I have also found my new, most-favorite snack ever! They are Mountain Blueberry Flax Granola Crisps. Yogi is the brand. They are delish!
I attended my first belly-dancing class on Tuesday and have been little more than a lump on my couch the rest of the week, save for last night when I was a lump at someone elses house during small group :)Belly dancing was fun and interesting. If I had to judge from the first night, I don't think its a class I am going to love as much as I did pole-dancing, but it will be fun and different and it is a night spent NOT on the couch.

Anyone else out there struggling with making healthy life changes? What have you found to work for you or not work?


alli (and tommy too!) said...

fiber 1 pop tarts, so good but so bad. 190 calories in one pop tart. so one package is a breakfast of 380 calories! which is not too high but there is a ton of sugar so they make you hungry quickly. certainly a sad day when i realized that. i threw away a half eaten box :(

AshleaD said...

Alli- I am now depressed. lol

Alli (and Tommy too!) said...

i know, so sad. i'm sorry. i had to tell you though! it was such a sad day when i found out :(

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