“A Thousand Setting Suns” is a provocative novel that intertwines the lives of Mariam and Laila set against a warring Afganistan. At fifteen, Mariam is left to the care of her father, who immediately rids himself of her by arranging her marriage to Rasheed, a man of more than forty. Forced to move to a new city and wear a burka to respect her new husband, Mariam learns about herself as she tries to fulfill the duties of a wife. Many years later, political unrest leaves Laila vulnerable when her parents are killed and her home is destroyed. Faced with no other option, she too marries Rasheed and moves into his home with Mariam. The reader watches as the women learn to work together through impossible circumstances to create a meaningful life and unbreakable friendship.
The narration of the book switches from the point of view of Maraim to Laila at exactly the right time, which brings an incredibly poignant perspective to the life Afghan women have. Hosseini has an uncanny ability to write in an effortless manner about incredibly serious topics. By allowing social oppression of women to touch the lives of both women, the reader gains a unique perspective of how one lives without the benefit of education, medical care, or legal rights. The women navigate domestic abuse, poverty, and land minds, to find companionship and love, and live a life they can be proud of. The ending was uncommonly bittersweet and rewarding, but would satisfy readers.
I’m still stunned that I could enjoy a book with such serious messages and plots, which have stayed with me since reading the book. Honestly, this was one of the better books I’ve read lately due mostly to the easy reading style and the narrators’ voices. The story unfolded in a way that drew me in and kept me transfixed to the page. I would highly recommend this book to women, especially those who enjoyed “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan” because it makes the reader think about a foreign social system we think we know in a way that is intellectual and emotional at the same time. This book inspired me to pick up books I wouldn’t normally read, and I hope that new perspective brings me some more good reads!