A novel A Thousand Splendid Suns is written by contemporary author Khaled Husseini, it is a thrilling depiction of wars stricken in Afghanistan. It is a story oppression, sacrifice, suffering and war. The grief-stricken story is set in Afghanistan, which traverses quite a few years, is driven by the accounts of two ladies, Laila and Mariyam, who belong to different walks of life but end up having similar fate until Laila gets luck enough to run away.
Toward the start, we are dropped into the universe of Mariyam, a little youngster living alone with her unmarried mother in Herat. So, the story starts with Mariyam and her mother, Nana, in the village of Gul Daman. Poor Mariyam is harassed by her epileptic mother, and she lives for her week after week visits from her deceptive, enchanting father who runs Herat’s film. Mariyam is the illegitimate daughter of Jalil, a wealthy businessman who lives in the city. After the suicide of Mariyam’s mother, Jalil and his wives marry young Mariyam, aged only 16, off to Rasheed in his forties. Regardless Mariyam is going to live with a total more abnormal man who demands that she should wear the burka and go upstairs when guests show up, a provisional confidence starts to develop in Mariam that she might have the option to win some love from her better half.
Rasheed is a shoemaker who lives in Kabul. The newlywed couple lives in Kabul where Mariyam gets pregnant but miscarries. She has miscarriages every time she gets pregnant, in the end having no baby of her own. This makes Rasheed furious and starts behaving badly with Mariyam. Mariyam’s marriage becomes a prison: Mariam was afraid. She always lived in fright because of the unpredictable temper of his husband, who would occasionally beat her brutally and later try to compensate his wrong doings with impure apologies.
The night Soviets take over Afghanistan, a baby girl is born, named Laila. She is a daughter of well-educated parents. Her father is a teacher. She has a childhood friend, Tariq, whom she falls in love with as she grows up. The war in the country starts to get worse. Tariq loses his leg because of the ongoing war and bombing in the city.
The two young people fall head over heels for each other and cross the boundary set by the society. Due to conditions getting worse in the country, Tariq’s parents decide to leave for Pakistan. On the day Tariq leaves the country, Laila and Tariq consummate their love. Laila’s family also decides to leave the country when a rocket attack kills Laila’s parents and Rasheed comes into the scene. Hosseini is too mindful so as to even think about describing for unmindful westerners the political foundation to these ladies’ lives, from the Soviet occupation that governed Laila’s youth to the becoming stronger of the mujahideen that her siblings join, in the midst of ‘rising gossipy tidbits that, following eight years of battling, the Soviets were losing this war’.
Rasheed and Maryam are neighbors of Laila’s. They take care of Laila as she has just gone through a trauma. One day, a man comes to tell Laila that he saw Tariq die in a hospital. Taking a chance, Rasheed, now 60, asks Laila to marry him. Laila says yes as she has no one to look upon. Laila is pregnant with Tariq’s child but she plans to convince Rasheed that it is his baby.
Laila’s plan is to escape to Pakistan and live a better life. Maryam does not like Laila in the beginning. But over the time, their bond grows stronger. Laila gives birth to Aziza, Tariq’s child. Laila convinces Maryam to escape from this hell and leave for Pakistan. However, things turn against them and both the women along with Aziza are arrested and sent back to Rasheed. This makes Rasheed angry that he almost kills them.
Time passes by, Aziza grows up. Laila and Rasheed have a son, Zalmai. Rasheed loses his shop and forces Laila to send Aziza to an orphanage. Aziza starts to live in a nearby orphanage. One day, while returning after visiting Aziza, Laila finds a guy standing in front her house. It is Tariq who has come to meet Laila. Tariq tells her how they went to Pakistan and how the life is, and he wants take Laila with him. Laila tell Tariq of Aziza. He promises to meet Aziza the next day and goes.
When Rasheed finds out about Laila meeting Tariq, he almost chokes her to death when Maryam kills Rasheed to save Laila. Laila and the children go with Tariq to Murree, Pakistan while Maryam stays back to take the blame of Rasheed’s murder and is executed by the Taliban.
Laila lives a comfortable life in Murree with Tariq and the children. Whether it is love – ‘She had fallen for Tariq. Hopelessly and desperately’ – or hate – ‘What harmful thing had she willfully done to this man to warrant his malice?’ – each distinct emotion is spelled out a touch too clearly
America enters the proxy war going on in Afghanistan and the conditions gets a bit better. Laila decides to go back to Kabul. The new family returns to Kabul. When Laila comes back to Afghanistan, she visits Maryam’s birthplace and her father’s house in Herat. She sobs as she reminisces the memories she made with Maryam in those years of hardship. While visiting Maryam’s place of birth, she receives a box from the son of the Mullah who used to teach Maryam. The box contains a long letter by Maryam’s father, Jalil along with the share of his inheritance. Laila uses the money to build an orphanage in Kabul. The life starts to treat Laila good as we discover at the end of the book that Laila is pregnant and the children discuss what they will name the new child.