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Literature: A Thousand Splendid Suns
There is only one, only one skill a woman like you and me needs in life, and they don't teach it in school. Only one skill. And it's this: tahamul. Endure.
Nana, to her daughter Mariam

"A Thousand Splendid Suns" is a 2007 novel written by Khaled Hosseini, his second after "The Kite Runner". The story follows the lives of two Afghan women, Mariam and Laila, and how they eventually intertwine together, spanning from the 1960s to 2003.

After her mother's suicide, Mariam, a lowly harami is sent by her rich father to marry Rasheed, a shoemaker living in Kabul. She tries to get used to her new life, but after having many miscarriages, she is made miserable by Rasheed's growing abuse. Years later, the story moves to Laila, an educated girl who lives down the street from Mariam and Rasheed. When Laila is a teenager, her parents get killed by a rocket explosion and she is taken in by Mariam and Rasheed. Eager for a pretty young woman, Rasheed makes Laila his second wife. After some initial friction, Mariam and Laila eventually become best friends and confidantes, united against their common adversary, the abusive and manipulative Rasheed.

The book is divided into four parts: The first details Mariam's early life, the second details Laila's early life, the third details their lives together under Rasheed, and the fourth describes Laila's life after Mariam is executed for her murder of Rasheed.

You might need some tissues.
Provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Mariam is abused and manipulated both verbally and emotionally by her mother. Laila is emotionally abused by her mother as well, though from neglect rather than aggression.
    • Rasheed has no problem hitting Aziza, mostly since she is a girl and therefore can't be a Replacement Goldfish for his dead son.
  • Adult Fear: There's a horrifying scene after Giti dies where her mother has to collect pieces of her body.
  • Arranged Marriage: Rasheed and Mariam.
  • Asshole Victim: Rasheed. Mariam murdering him was definitely well-deserved from what he did to her in the past.
  • The Atoner: Jalil. As war eats his legit family up, he realizes how stupid he is for ditching Mariam. He travels to Kabul to try and make amends, but Marian refuses to see him, and destroys the letter that he leaves for her. She eventually learns that he died about a month later. In the end, she never reads his last letter, which he left with Mullah Faizullah; Laila retrieves it from his son Hamza, along with Mariam's share of the inheritance and a videotape of Pinocchio.
  • Babies Ever After
  • Bittersweet Ending: Mariam is executed for the murder of Rasheed, but her sacrifice allows Laila and her children to live on in peace.
  • Broken Pedestal: Jalil to Mariam. She left her kolba to travel all the way to his house in Herat. All she wanted was to see and spend time with him, and he shuts her away in fear of ruining his image of having a harami child. Then, after her mother Nana was Driven to Suicide, and after finally getting to be in her father's house, she was almost immediately set up in an Arranged Marriage with Rasheed. Mariam never forgives him for that...and she would never know the lengths he would go to make up for it because of that same abusive marriage she was set up with in the first place.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Tariq and Laila.
  • Consummation Counterfeit: Laila cuts her finger the night she consummates her marriage and uses her blood to stain the sheets.
  • Crapsack World: Justified that this story explains in detail the Afghanistan Civil War through the perspective of two civilian women.
  • Darker and Edgier: Hosseini's previous bestseller, which featured a gang of boys anally raping a young child and a couple getting stoned to death, is practically a children's tale compared to A Thousand Splendid Suns.
  • Dead Guy Junior: At the end, it's implied that if Laila's third child is a girl, she will name her Mariam.
  • Death by Childbirth: Rasheed's first wife.
  • Does Not Like Men: Mariam's mother, due to her being the only one punished for having a bastard. It doesn't justify her views in Mariam's eyes, but when it gets to the point where a woman in Afghanistan can be jailed for practically any reason, Mariam knows that her mother had a right to be at least suspicious.
  • The Dog Bites Back/Pay Evil unto Evil: Mariam's murder of Rasheed.
  • Domestic Abuser: Rasheed again.
  • Dramatic Irony: Laila is happy to see the Taliban taking over, thinking that it'll end the violence and suffering. It doesn't.
  • Driven to Suicide: Mariam's mother, after she came to the conclusion that Mariam was abandoning her for her father.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Or Bittersweet Ending, really, but in the end Laila and her children end up having a satisfyingly good life. Too bad Mariam had to die to let it happen.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Mariam willingly turns herself for murdering Rasheed in order to ensure that Laila and Tariq can leave Kabul safely.
  • Foreshadowing: While cleaning Rasheed's room, Mariam finds a photo of Rasheed and his first wife and notices something off about the wife's pose, as if she is subtly trying to escape Rasheed.
    • Laila noting that she hated the whistling of the missiles even more than the sound of the explosion. It's what she hears first before her parents die.
  • From Bad to Worse: The whole story, regardless of character.
    • Mariam realizes her father is ashamed of her, then goes back home to find that her mother's killed herself. She's forced to marry a man who turns out to be abusive, and she can't have kids. And then, after years of abusive marriage, a younger wife comes along who she's supposed to treat like a master. As things get worse, she questions how she could ever find her father's shame to be the worst thing ever.
    • Laila starts off the happiest, in a home with loving and progressive parents. Then the village turns into a warzone, her parents die right before they're about to move, and she realizes she's pregnant with her lover's child. Said lover is presumed dead and she marries an abusive man who starts hating her once she gives birth to a girl. And then the Taliban take over...
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: When Laila finds out that she is pregnant with Zalmai, she is unsure if she can love Rasheed's child the same way she does Tariq's and considers aborting him, but is unable to go through with it.
  • Happily Married: Laila's were once, though her mother's withdrawal puts a strain on the marriage.
    • In the end, Laila and Tariq.
  • He-Man Woman Hater: Rasheed, often crossing over with a horribly realistic version of a Straw Misognyist. The guy's happy when Sharia law takes over and a woman can be beaten for just about any reason.
  • Heroic Bastard: Mariam, and later, Aziza.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Mariam allows herself to be executed for Rasheed's murder so that Laila and Tariq can leave Kabul.
  • Hope Spot: So, so many.
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: Mariam, who desperately wants a child, has seven miscarriages. Laila, on the other hand, unexpectedly gets pregnant her first time with Tariq.
  • Mama Bear: Laila, to both of her children. Mariam is the same way, even though the kids aren't hers.
    • Laila's mother believes she's carrying a torch for the memory of her sons by refusing to leave. Her reluctance inadvertently ends up getting both her and her husband killed.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Rasheed. To leave Laila no choice but to marry him, he hires a conman that fakes a dying dude and lies to Laila about Tariq's death.
    • Both of the main characters' mothers emotionally manipulate their children, too.
  • Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: Laila's parents, with her mother being the physically tougher one and her father being the sensitive scholar.
  • Morality Pet: Zalmai to Rasheed.
  • No Woman's Land: Once the Taliban take over.
  • Parental Neglect: Rasheed to Aziza. And that's when he's being nice.
    • Laila's mother is so consumed with the loss of her sons that she often ignores the fact that she has a daughter.
  • Pet the Dog: Rasheed gives Aziza a stick of gum as a gift before she is sent to the orphanage.
  • Planning For The Future Before The End: A particularly heartbreaking version before Mariam turns herself in when Laila is telling her the stories of the life they will have once Mariam is freed. Laila knows that it could never happen, and that Mariam knows it as well, but lets her talk anyways for Laila's comfort.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Jalil tries to visit Mariam before his death. Laila later finds out that he left a sum of money for her as well as a copy of a movie that she'd begged him to take her to see.
  • Replacement Goldfish: The reason Rasheed wants a son so badly is to replace his first son, who drowned as a child.
  • Someone to Remember Him By: Aziza is this. Later becomes a Subverted Trope when it is revealed that her father is alive after all.
  • Title Drop: Courtesy of Laila's father.
  • Visit by Divorced Dad: As a child, Mariam receives weekly visits from Jalil.

As I Lay DyingLit FicAtonement
This Is All: The Pillow Book of Cordelia KennLiterature of the 2000sThr3e

alternative title(s): A Thousand Splendid Suns
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