A Thousand Splendid Suns

A Thousand Splendid Suns Study Guide

Khaled Hosseini's second novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns, was written after Hosseini traveled back to his native Afghanistan to examine for himself the nation’s situation in the aftermath of decades of turmoil. In early 2007, Hosseini told Time Magazine about this rationale: "On the one hand, I was hoping I'd got it right, that I didn't screw up [in The Kite Runner]. On the other hand, what I'd written was so terrible, part of me was kind of hoping that it wasn't quite that bad. The reality was that it was actually worse."

Hosseini had left Afghanistan before the Soviet takeover, and Time suggests that this novel is an act towards his redemption for his family’s choice not to return to the country. Unlike Hosseini's first novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns contains no scenes set in America. Hosseini crafts the story of two strong Afghan women of different ages from different areas whose lives intersect for a while. The novel, which spans Afghan history from before the Soviet war until after Taliban rule, has been said by critics to be even better than the Hosseini's critically acclaimed The Kite Runner. Entertainment Weekly notes that readers from Howard Stern to Laura Bush have been hooked by the novel.

The novel can be divided into four main sections on the basis of subject matter. The first part focuses on the upbringing of Mariam, a child of illegitimate birth who was raised in a small hut outside of the city of Herat. The second section focuses on Laila, who is a generation younger than Mariam. Laila is born in Kabul to two parents, and her father hopes that she will contribute to Afghan society. The third part follows the intersection of Mariam's and Laila's lives. In the last part, they travel their separate paths.

Time reports that Hosseini's books have not yet been published in Afghanistan. Time suggests that readers in Afghanistan have too little time and money to spend on novels and that Hosseini’s style may seem too “confessional” (despite the fact that the novel is not autobiographical). Readers may well observe that Hosseini's writing seems American in style because of its open confrontation of difficult moral, social, and political issues.

In this context, Hosseini told Time that "I guess I misunderstood what the role of fiction was. Because I never thought it was about writing things that everybody agrees about, that make everybody feel warm and fuzzy inside. I guess it's my Western sensibility, now that I've lived here for so long, that I feel like these are things we should talk about."