|A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
Born a generation apart and with very different ideas about love and family, Mariam and Laila are two women brought jarringly together by war, by loss and by fate. As they endure the ever escalating dangers around them-in their home as well as in the streets of Kabul-they come to form a bond that makes them both sisters and mother-daughter to each other, and that will ultimately alter the course not just of their own lives but of the next generation. With heart-wrenching power and suspense, Hosseini shows how a woman’s love for her family can move her to shocking and heroic acts of self-sacrifice, and that in the end it is love, or even the memory of love, that is often the key to survival.
A stunning accomplishment, A Thousand Splendid Suns is a haunting, heartbreaking, compelling story of an unforgiving time, an unlikely friendship, and an indestructible love.
Riverhead (May 22, 2007)
Book Club Ideas
Food and decorations can be spread on a sofrah on the floor. A sofrah is a large cloth or “eating blanket” that food is served on. This picture is from Annie’s book club ideas for The Kite Runner.
As Kabul is being rebuilt, music can be heard in the streets again – rubab and tabla, dootar, harmonium and tamboura, old Ahmad Zahir songs (page 363).
Book Club Menu
At a party thrown by Laila’s parents to celebrate the surrender of Najibullah, President of Afghanistan when the Mujahideen took over Kabul, Skewers of Lamb were made over a sizzling makeshift grill (page 149).
Mariam and Laila bonded over chai and halwa. Laila looked closely at Mariam and “for the first time, it was not an adversary’s face Laila saw but a face of grievances unspoken, burdens gone unprotested, a destiny submitted to and endured.” (pg 223)
In Afghanistan, tea is often served in small glasses on a silver tray. This Chai Recipe is spiced with ginger, cinnamon and cardamom. Halwa is similar in flavor and texture to a sweet polenta. This recipe is flavored with cardamom and, as Laila said, it is awfully good with chai.
Other food items that were mentioned in A Thousand Splendid Suns includes
- Rice with different topping: shalqam stew with turnip, spinach sabzi, cauliflower with ginger (page 15)
- Dishlemeh candy (page 15)
- Lamb kebab and aush soup (page 37)
- Daal with fluffy white rice (page 62)
- Ice cream with crushed-pistachio topping and tiny rice noodles at the bottom (page 66)
- Borani and aushak (page 80)
- Shorwa (page 116)
- Boiled beans topped with a thick cilantro chutney (page 140)
- Aush soup with kidney bean and dried dill, kofta, steaming hot mantu drenched with fresh yogurt and topped with mint (page 145)
- Carafes of dogh (page 149)
- Bowls of qurma, platters of mastawa and loaves of bread (page 150)
Book Club Resources
Ratings at the time this post was published
|Goodreads: 4.32 stars ( 750,513 ratings)|
|Amazon: 4.7 stars (4,032 ratings)|
|LibraryThing: 4.27 stars (6,863 ratings)|
|My Rating: 4.5 stars. Although there is a thread of hope in this novel, it isn’t a feel good book and I was left heavy-hearted for some time afterward. The writing and storyline quickly drew me in and I enjoyed learning about Afghanistan and particularly the plight of women.|
Spoiler Alert: Discussion guide may contain spoilers to the book.
1. The phrase “a thousand splendid suns,” from the poem by Saib-e-Tabrizi, is quoted twice in the novel – once as Laila’s family prepares to leave Kabul, and again when she decides to return there from Pakistan. It is also echoed in one of the final lines: “Miriam is in Laila’s own heart, where she shines with the bursting radiance of a thousand suns.” Discuss the thematic significance of this phrase.
2. Mariam’s mother tells her: “Women like us. We endure. It’s all we have.” Discuss how this sentiment informs Mariam’s life and how it relates to the larger themes of the novel.
3. By the time Laila is rescued from the rubble of her home by Rasheed and Mariam, Mariam’s marriage has become a miserable existence of neglect and abuse. Yet when she realizes that Rasheed intends to marry Laila, she reacts with outrage. Given that Laila’s presence actually tempers Rasheed’s abuse, why is Mariam so hostile toward her?
4. Laila’s friendship with Mariam begins when she defends Mariam from a beating by Rasheed. Why does Laila take this action, despite the contempt Mariam has consistently shown her?
5. Growing up, Laila feels that her mother’s love is reserved for her two brothers. “People,” she decides, “shouldn’t be allowed to have new children if they’d already given away all their love to their old ones.” How does this sentiment inform Laila’s reaction to becoming pregnant with Rasheed’s child? What lessons from her childhood does Laila apply in raising her own children?
Read more . . .
6. At several points in the story, Mariam and Laila pass themselves off as mother and daughter. What is the symbolic importance of this subterfuge? In what ways is Mariam’s and Laila’s relationship with each other informed by their relationships with their own mothers?
7. One of the Taliban judges at Mariam’s trial tells her, “God has made us different, you women and us men. Our brains are different. You are not able to think like we can. Western doctors and their science have proven this.” What is the irony in this statement? How is irony employed throughout the novel?
8. Laila’s father tells her, “You’re a very, very bright girl. Truly you are. You can be anything that you want.” Discuss Laila’s relationship with her father. What aspects of his character does she inherit? In what ways is she different?
9. Mariam refuses to see visitors while she is imprisoned, and she calls no witnesses at her trial. Why does she make these decisions?
10. The driver who takes Babi, Laila, and Tariq to the giant stone Buddhas above the Bamiyan Valley describes the crumbling fortress of Shahr-e-Zohak as “the story of our country, one invader after another… we’re like those walls up there. Battered, and nothing pretty to look at, but still standing.” Discuss the metaphorical import of this passage as it relates to Miriam and Laila. In what ways does their story reflect the larger story of Afghanistan’s troubled history?
11. Among other things, the Taliban forbid “writing books, watching films, and painting pictures.” Yet despite this edict, the film Titanic becomes a sensation on the black market. Why would people risk the Taliban’s violent reprisals for a taste of popcorn entertainment? What do the Taliban’s restrictions on such material say about the power of artistic expression and the threat it poses to repressive political regimes?
12. While the first three parts of the novel are written in the past tense, the final part is written in present tense. What do you think was the author’s intent in making this shift? How does it change the effect of this final section?
Purchase A Thousand Splendid Suns at your favorite bookseller
|Khaled Hosseini was born in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 1965. His father was a diplomat with the Afghan Foreign Ministry and his mother taught Farsi and History at a large high school in Kabul. In 1976, the Afghan Foreign Ministry relocated the Hosseini family to Paris and in 1980, Hosseini’s family moved to San Jose, California. Hosseini was a practicing internist between 1996 and 2004. While in medical practice, Hosseini began writing his first novel, The Kite Runner, in March of 2001. In 2006 he was named a goodwill envoy to UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency. Khaled has been working to provide humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan through The Khaled Hosseini Foundation. He lives in northern California.|
Awards for A Thousand Splendid Suns
Amazon’s #1 book of the year, 2007
Nominated for ALA’s Best Book for Young Readers Award, 2008
Book Sense Picks Highlights, 2007
#1 Worldwide Bestselling title in 2008
Washington Post, best books of 2007
San Francisco Chronicle, Notables of 2007
People Magazine, Top Ten Books
Time, Ten Best Books: Fiction
BN.com, Top Ten
Hudson News, Best Books of the Year
Booklist Editor’s Choice 2007
Other Works by Author
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