Good and evil. Love and war. Politics, family, culture- you get all of the above and more in Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns. He’s an author we’ve mentioned exactly once on this site, and that was to wonder if he didn’t owe a great deal to George Bush and Osama bin Laden for the success of his books. Now having actually read one of them, I can say that Hosseini is much more than an author who stumbled into the perfect moment for a man of his background.
A Thousand Splendid Suns is a skillfully crafted book that is beautiful to read, and one that transforms the western view of Afghanistan as a barren pile of beige rubble into a rich and colorful culture that captures the imagination. It’s heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time, and it manages to educate and uplift. I’ve said nothing about the plot, because any summaries I put down here will just feed the stereotypes that western readers will bring to the book. But it’s much more than a history or a peek into Islamic culture, it’s a story of human endurance above all else.
The one criticism I’ll offer is that the book seems to carry on far past its natural ending. The wind-down is still engaging and beautifully written, but once the main emotional conflict is resolved, there follows an inordinate amount of wrapping things up, tying loose ends and bringing everything to a satisfying standstill.
At this point, one feels like Hosseini is checking boxes, paying off each important conversation or detail delivered in the early pages. I kept asking myself, ‘Is this it? Is the curtain coming down on this image?’ And he’d continue for pages. He even redeems characters that had nothing to do with the protagonists left standing at the end of the book. Discoveries are made that would have no impact on the living. He really didn’t have to do this. The emotional punch he delivers is rewarding enough as it is. But what do I know? The man can write. And I loved the book.