I really loved The Kite Runner when I read it last year and I’ve been longing to read this book, Hosseini’s second effort, ever since its release. I must admit, I had really high expectations. Not only did I expect something just as amazing and moving as The Kite Runner, but I also heard from everyone else that it was even better. That is some high praise, so when I picked it up, I was almost nervous that it would disappoint me.
Mariam spends the first fifteen years of her life in a little shack with her mother, knowing all the time that she is a bastard that ruined her mother’s life and an embarrassment to her father. She knows the first is true, but she denies the second until it becomes startlingly clear to her just when she needs his love the most. Laila has grown up as a more privileged daughter; she is openly acknowledged as intelligent, attends school, and even enjoys the love of her father. She also has a very close friend, Taliq, with whom she barely has to speak to be understood. When civil war erupts in Kabul, Afghanistan, these two women are thrown together, forced to endure the trials and tribulations of a life neither of them ever wanted.
First of all, I’ve discovered that I really like learning about the Middle East through fiction. I can read about current events elsewhere, but very little brings it home like a novel, and this book definitely does that. The civil war in Afghanistan and the horror of the Taliban (which is actually welcomed by some Afghanis) are brought to us through these narrators, with whom it is ridiculously easy to fall in love. There is never black and white, however; Hosseini rounds out each character, giving them reasons for their actions, giving them regrets, making them people. It would be easy to create good and evil, but Hosseini doesn’t do that, and even Rasheed has his motivations. We can’t excuse him for his actions, ever, but you can see the turning point in his life.
The emotional power of this book is breathtaking. It did make me cry – I can count on one hand the books that have made me cry, although there was another one recently – and it made everyone else that I’ve spoken to about it cry as well. It’s so moving in a way that doesn’t seem manipulative, but seems like something that could have actually happened under the circumstances. More than anything else, it feels like you are right there with Laila and Mariam, just as tied to them, and I didn’t want to let them go.
What else can I say? If you love to read, you should read this book, and that’s my honest opinion. It is a fantastic story. I loved it. Buy this book on Amazon.