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Sunday, July 15, 2007

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

A Thousand Splendid Suns is possibly the best book I'll read this year. (The Book Thief was also excellent, it's a close race between them at this point.) ATSS is the story of Mariam and Laila, two women who live in Afghanistan from the early 70s or so until almost present times. Laila was born in 1977, making her two years younger than I am, which figured heavily in my reaction to the story. Their story is set against the very real political actions of the times- Soviet invasion, Mujahideens, the Taliban. I admit, this is not an area of politics that I know much about. My husband was nice enough to give me mini history lessons as the need arose.

This book was so emotionally hard for me. It took me something like three weeks to read it. I kept reaching points where I had to stop for days to recover my equilibrium. I finally emailed someone who had read it and forced her to tell me that it ended well. (That would be Trish, of Trish's Reading Nook. Her review is here.) The book, though it is fiction, seemed so very real to me. Mariam and Laila are so well done, so different and so believable. I kept saying to myself, "this can't be happening, it can't, it can't!" My mind could not comprehend that in 1994 when the Taliban invaded and women had to be covered in burqas, and couldn't leave home without a man, that I was 19 years old and in college. I had my own apartment. I was wearing swimsuits in mixed company! It was fiction, but it was so real. I cried so many times. Two points were worse than others (spoilers here. PLEASE come talk to me about it if you've read it! Shawna, if you're reading this DO NOT go read them!)

A Thousand Splendid Suns was beautiful and horrifying. It affected me more than any book ever has, I think. I felt sick while reading it. It was the first time that I have ever wanted very very badly to read the ending first. I didn't, but I really wanted to.

Trish recommended that I read The Storyteller's Daughter by Saira Shah and I picked that up at the library today. That one is non-fiction, also about Afghanistan. I also have two books to follow up The Faith Club with that deal with Christianity, Judaism and Islam (Peace Be Upon You by Zachary Karabell and The History of God by Karen Armstrong.) Holy Blood, Holy Grail has come up in conversation lately. I realize I am combining two topics- religion and oppression, but it all blends together for me. I am not at all sure when I'll get to these, what with all the challenges I'm in for and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows being less than a week away, but I am certainly all fired up for it. You can bet I'll be paying closer attention to the news now, and trying to imagine myself in their shoes. This was a very good book, I'll be recommending that everyone I know read it.

(This is my first book for the Saturday Review of Books Challenge.)


  1. Lisa, I think this is why we need to read novels about current events and places: "You can bet I'll be paying closer attention to the news now, and trying to imagine myself in their shoes."

    Our news media gives us Paris Hilton's antics instead of news, so we Americans are likely less informed than others in the world about what is going on. We visit Disney World and (act like we) think that's the "real" world. We are like children, believing nothing will hurt us if we just don't think about it too hard.

    I'm glad you were so deeply affected by this book. Saira Shah, who wrote The Storyteller's Daughter, goes to Afghanistan with her father's stories in her mind -- and it seemed to me that she preferred to believe the stories even with the horror in front of her there. I would still recommend you read her book. Thanks for a very good review of this book.

  2. Lisa, I posted part of your review at Bonnie's Books as "reading unpleasant books" and provided a link here to your full review. You may be seeing new people visiting, so I wanted to let you know why they are here.

  3. Thanks Bonnie. It was really a great book, I hope more people read it and don't dismiss it for being fiction.

  4. I absolutely loved this book and am still recovering after the emotional roller coaster it sent me on. I'm so glad to see that you enjoyed it as well!

  5. I loved the Kite Runner, and I'm excited to read this new one...I'm glad to hear you enjoyed it so much...

  6. Glad you liked this. I just skimmed through your review because I have to read Kite Runner before I get to it.

    I want to read it early next year if not before.

  7. I read The Kite Runner two summers ago and really liked it, but it was nothing like this in terms of how it affected me. I had some desire to read more from that part of the world, but it never felt as REAL as ATSS did. I still can't shake the feeling that Miriam and Laila are real and wonder what life is like today for them.

  8. Lisa - great review. I'm glad that after it is all said and done that you still liked the book.

    This one had a huge impact on me, and I still get chills (yes, right now as I type) just thinking about those two women.

    I'll be interested in what you think of The Storyteller's Daughter. Many of the elements are the same--I think you'll recognize a lot in Shah's story, but it gives so much history that allows for more understanding.

    Best wishes (and enjoy HP!!). I'm just finishing #6 for the second time and CANT WAIT until Saturday morning!! :)

  9. Hi Lisa! Thanks for stopping by my blog. :) You've written a great review on this book...and I can't wait to read it soon because so many people have liked it after reading it.

    By the way, I've added your blog on my list to visit because you've such wonderful stuff to read here! :)

  10. I have this book waiting on my shelf - and it's one of my selections for the Something About Me Reading Challenge, which starts August 1. I am really looking forward to reading this book, especially after reading most of your review (I didn't read the spoiler).... =)

  11. I just finished the audio book today (blogged about it just a little bit ago). I'm off to read your spoily post now.

    It's a very very good book.

  12. great review! i've linked you from mine!

  13. I looved it!
    If you liked this book, another amazing read would be 'Princess' By Jean Sasson.


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