Monday, July 02, 2007

A Thousand Splendid Suns

About three years ago, our friend Shirley Woolsey, who at that time was a missionary in Chile, told me about a book that she was certain I would enjoy reading. Khaled Hosseini, an Afghani wrote a book titled The Kite Runner. I kind of filed that away in my mind. Two years ago last month (June 2005), Rose, Kim & I were in Chile, and stayed with the Woolsey family for the last four days we were in the country. Craig Woolsey was reading the book at the time we were in their home. The next to the last night we were in Chile, I started reading the book in their living room, and read about 100 pages. I asked them if I could take the book with me, and promised to air mail it right back to them. They said, "no," so I had to find another way. I remember going to a Books-a-Million store in Joplin, and reading a couple chapters more. I then bought a used copy, probably on, and devoured it. Rose read it. It was a picture into life in Afghanistan. The author, Hosseini, had left his home country and migrated to the U.S. where he made a life for himself, when he was very young. The Kite Runner was based on the author's memory of Afghanistan. He had never returned. Lev Grossman writes for Time magazine, and notes the irony of an expatriate Afghani writing a book about an expatriate Afghani returning to Afghanistan (The Kite Runner) without returning to Afghanistan himself. It was Grossman's article about Hosseini that made me aware of his second book. You can read his article here. Hosseini returned to Afghanistan in 2003, and promptly wrote A Thousand Splendid Suns. When I was walking down an aisle at Sam's Club, I saw it waiting for me, so I bought a copy. Rose read this one first. I started it on my long bus trip from Chicago, and just finished it a few nights ago (after finishing comps).

A Thousand Splendid Suns is a look at the lives of Afghani women, especially contrasting the lives of two women, one older than the other, raised in completely different pre-Taliban contexts, who end up, because of the nation's particular tragedies, married to the same despotic man. The younger was viewed at first by the older as the rival wife, to be fought. A friendship, in reality, a kinship (mother-daughter; older sister-younger sister), was formed. Like Hosseini's earlier book, as a master storyteller, this account is riveting. It is not a pleasant read, but it is valuable.

I had a student who spent a long time in Kabul, working with an NGO. He recommended another book on Afghanistan, title The Book Seller of Kabul, by Asne Seierstad. Though written based on the experiences of a non-Afghani who spends significant time there, it also allows foreigners a view from the inside.

I recommend all three of these books. You might want to check them out.

δόξα ἐν ὑψίστοις θεῷ
καὶ ἐπὶ γῆς εἰρήνη
ἐν ἀνθρώποις εὐδοκίας.


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