What is it about:
A powerful, heart wrenching tale of friendship between two women from different generations, Mariam and Laila, during the period of war and rise of Taliban in Afghanistan.
Women in the book
Mariam is innocent, gullible, but a hero in her own way. She is wise and has an invincible spirit, just like Laila does, but in a way that needs awakening.
Laila, on the other hand, has a mind of her own and the defying guts to voice her thoughts. She knows what she’s going through is not normal. She doesn’t endure injustice and violence. She fights back. Her spirit is a reflection of her father who believes, “Marriage can wait, education cannot. Because a society has no chance of success if its women are uneducated.”
Aziza, Laila’s daughter, is wise beyond her age. Adorable, understanding, kind. She is quick to adapt to her surroundings and develops a stutter when she’s given away into an orphanage.
“She [Laila] thought of Aziza’s stutter, and of what Aziza had said earlier about fractures and powerful collisions deep down [the earth] and how sometimes all we see on the surface is a slight tremor.“
The bond of friendship
Both women share a bond born from going through the same ordeal. What’s marvelous is that they stand up unflinchingly against the person who threatens to harm the other. They might not fight back with a vengeance when they’re the one bearing the pain, but neither can see the other in pain which is incredibly inspiring.
What’s better is that their friendship feels real, since it slowly develops over a course of time. It isn’t instant or forced. It’s gradual and convincing.
Capturing the voice of oppressed
The fact that it captures the voice of oppressed women, their thoughts, the reasons for their actions, their mannerisms everything so perfectly well and is written by a man is overwhelmingly impressive.
Men in the book
The men in the book play an equally important role. If you have an oppressed, you must have the oppressor.
Rasheed is, to put it simply, scary. He is a downright abuser but also smart, so that makes it hard to escape his clutches. He risks his life to steal food for his family, works so everyone back home can eat and he nearly saves Laila’s life by marrying her [which he is quick to point out]. But it all nullifies each time he does what he does to them in return, making him irredeemable.
Tariq, on the other hand, is kind, friendly, protective, a one-woman man, loyal, fearless, one who believes in equality. He possess all the ideal qualities you can only imagine a man has. His disability never stops him from doing the right thing. The disability is symbolic of his vulnerability that makes him human.
Above all, this book shows us the reality of war and what it does to common people. The party most affected, uprooted and left starved on the street is the ordinary; the ones who never wanted a war, deaths or blood in the first place. We feel the tremor of bombs through this book because we see it, face it and live it with the characters who are so much like us, within us and around us.
Khaled Hosseini is a master storyteller with a writing style that’s gripping, honest, easy to read and picturesque. He is unbiased with his portrayal of characters that he treats as people with different personalities and core beliefs [whether right or wrong] and then leaves it upon us to judge them.
It’s a book that stays with you long after you’ve turned the last page over. Totally worth your time.