“A Thousand Splendid Suns” is a moving novel written by Khaled Hosseini, being set in Pakistan. Amid the infamous rule of the Taliban, two women, Mariam and Laila, live under the oppressive roof of their husband, who brutally beats them both verbally and physically. Throughout this book, a strong bond is established between the two women, who guide and support each other in becoming strong faithful women, and who ultimately take two immensely different paths. This book conveys the idea that sometimes, in seemingly hopeless situations, in order to ultimately better someone else’s life for the greater good, an act of self sacrifice must be made.
Essentially, the book begins with an insight of Mariam and Laila’s life, before they changed completely. Afghanistan was more prominently led by men, women were believed to be much less superior. P.G7 “Learn this now and learn it well, my daughter: Like a compass needle that points north, a man’s accusing finger always finds a women. Always. You remember that, Mariam” Mariam’s mother, referred to as “Nana” is aware of how society portrays the importance of women, warning Mariam of what could come up in her life. As Mariam had several miscarriages, after Rasheed decided to get an additional wife, he was delighted at the fact that she was having a child, although little did he know it was not his, but Tariq’s, Laila’s love before she had been taken in by Rasheed as a result of a bomb killing her family and severely injuring her. Rasheed had never treated Laila’s child, Azizi, like one of his own, complaining about her crying, and ultimately when the time came, sending her away to live in an orphanage while Rasheed struggled for money. “‘Then i’ll go by myself’ Laila said. ‘You can’t stop me, Rasheed. Do you hear me? You can hit me all you want, but i’ll keep going there” P.G 313 – After Rasheed refused to take Laila to visit Azizi, Laila sacrifices her safety, from both the Taliban and Rasheed’s beatings, as a result of her standing up to him, in order to go see her daughter, leaving the house by herself risking her life as the Taliban would kill her if they saw her wondering the streets alone.
As the book continues, Rasheed becomes abusive to Mariam and Laila, leading to them to make the decision of leaving the country. Laila and Mariam sacrificed being killed by the Taliban when trying to flee the country, posing as mother and daughter going to live with their uncle. After almost 10 years of Rasheed lying to Laila about the death of Toriq, he comes to visit Laila, in Kabul ”Laila stood perfectly still and looked at Tariq blink. And somehow, miraculously, after she took a breath, closed and opened her eyes, he was still standing there. Tariq was still standing there. Laila allowed herself to take a step towards him. Then another. And another. And then she was running” P.G 319. After Tariq surprises Laila, she brings him into her home, which is also Rasheed’s. Generally in their culture, men other than their husbands should not be brought into their home, let alone be alone with them. Laila sacrifices being found out in order to talk to Tariq, due to the amount of love she has for him, the amount of love that was suppressed for so long. “They crashed to the ground, Rasheed and Laila, thrashing about. He ended up on top, his hands already wrapped around Laila’s neck….He meant to suffocate her, and there was nothing he could do about it” P.G 339. Rasheed tries to kill Laila, heavily beating her and strangling her, which caused Mariam to take control of the situation. After Laila was knocked unconscious, Mariam continued the fight with Rasheed and ultimately ended his life, knowing that a sin like that would cause her to be executed. “She was deciding the course of her own life. And, with that, Mariam brought down the shovel. This time, she gave it everything she had.” P.G 341
Towards the end of the book, Laila and Mariam are forced to make the heart breaking decision of taking their very separate paths. “They turned the corner, and Laila Never saw Mariam again.”Laila leaves Mariam and moves away staying safe in Murree, with her two kids and new husband, while Mariam’s life takes a turn, going to prison and ultimately, when the time cam, being executed. After being held in captivity for ten days, Mariam is executed by the Taliban in front of thousands of people. “Laila is happy here in Murree. But it is not an easy happiness. It is not a happiness without cost.” Living a happy life with her family cost Mariam her life. It is a good life, Laila tells herself, a life to be thankful for. It is, in fact, precisely the kind of life she used to dream for herself in her darkest days with Rasheed. Everyday, Laila reminds herself of this” Laila is beyond thankful for Mariam’s sacrifice. Although Laila lives a better life, she soon decides to go back to Herat one last time, to visit Mariam’s Kolba, (childhood home) and help out the orphanage where Azizi once lived, with renovations and supplies. “This past winter, Laila bought a few beds for the children’s sleeping quarters, pillows too, and proper wool blankets. She had cast iron stoves installed for the winter” P.G 399
Throughout the book, both Mariam and Laila grow emotionally and as people they are stronger women. Not only did Mariam’s sacrifice change Laila’s life, but also her family’s, and the state of living for the children living at the orphanage. Ultimately, this book conveys the idea that is prevalent throughout the whole book, that sometimes, in seemingly hopeless situations, in order to ultimately better someone else’s life for the greater good, an act of self sacrifice must be made.