Hmm. My second Khaled Hosseini book didn’t quite live up to the first one. That notwithstanding, it was a very good book. It tells the story of two different women, Mariam and Laila, the former older than the latter and how life brings them together. It is a book filled with irony especially regarding the lives of fathers and daughters. Unlike Mariam, Laila has a smart, loving father who wants the very best for her. Gender inequality is quite a big theme here as well and we see a vast difference in the way male and female children are viewed. I liked the fact that some fathers actually love their daughters and want the best for them. Here’s the Edict from the Taliban when they took over Afghanistan;
Our watan is now known as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. These are the laws that we will enforce and you will obey: All citizens must pray five times a day. If it is prayer time and you are caught doing something other, you will be beaten. All men will grow their beards. The correct length is at least one clenched fist beneath the chin. If you do not abide by this, you will be beaten. All boys will wear turbans. Boys in grade one through six will wear black turbans, higher grades will wear white. All boys will wear Islamic clothes. Shirt collars will be buttoned. Singing is forbidden. Dancing is forbidden. Playing cards, playing chess, gambling, and kite flying are forbidden. Writing books, watching films, and painting pictures are forbidden. If you keep parakeets, you will be beaten. Your birds will be killed. If you steal, your hand will be cut off at the wrist. If you steal again, your foot will be cut off. If you are not Muslim, do not worship where you can be seen by Muslims. If you do, you will be beaten and imprisoned. If you are caught trying to convert a Muslim to your faith, you will be executed. Attention women: You will stay inside your homes at all times. It is not proper for women to wander aimlessly about the streets. If you go outside, you must be accompanied by a mahram, a male relative. If you are caught alone on the street, you will be beaten and sent home. You will not, under any circumstance, show your face. You will cover with burqa when outside. If you do not, you will be severely beaten. Cosmetics are forbidden. Jewelry is forbidden. You will not wear charming clothes. You will not speak unless spoken to. You will not make eye contact with men. You will not laugh in public. If you do, you will be beaten. You will not paint your nails. If you do, you will lose a finger. Girls are forbidden from attending school. All schools for girls will be closed immediately. Women are forbidden from working. If you are found guilty of adultery, you will be stoned to death. Listen. Listen well. Obey
It’s just unbelievable that people lived through such conditions, really. It’s obvious that the goal is to break people, especially women and children by taking away even the little joys.
The story is set in Kabul, Afghanistan but this time, we see life from eyes shielded by the burqa of two women. This is a book about friendship, love and the kinship of two people in a struggle. The life of an illegitimate child is put under a magnifying glass and I felt empathy for the child. I saw how illegitimacy can change a child’s life and perspectives. This book made me think a lot about the wickedness of man. I couldn’t help feeling angry and sad the entire time I read the book. It’s such a sad book and sometimes pathetic.
I appreciated learning how powerful the love and strength of another human is and how much revolution can be born from such strength. In my opinion, Laila’s strength is born mostly from her father’s love and the fact that he instilled in her the idea that she can do whatever she puts her mind to and I find that inspiring. Fathers and mothers alike have such power to shape a child and shouldn’t take such a responsibility for granted. This book teaches that life is not fair to some people and some people never really get a chance to be happy. It honestly felt like sadness galore and not the type of sadness that makes you cry.. It just makes you sad.
I have a few quotes though;
each snowflake was a sigh heaved by an aggrieved woman somewhere in the world. That all the sighs drifted up the sky, gathered into clouds, then broke into tiny pieces that fell silently on the people below
Like a compass needle that points north, a man’s accusing finger always finds a woman. Always
Mariam set about cleaning up the mess, marveling at how energetically lazy men could be.
Laila learned that boys differed from girls in this regard. They didn’t make a show of friendship. They felt no urge, no need, for this sort of talk.
Mammy was muttering to herself, long-winded prayers that rolled on and on until she had no breath left and had to eke out the last few words in a tiny, high-pitched squeak
time is the most unforgiving of fires, and she couldn’t, in the end, save it all.
And the past held only this wisdom: that love was a damaging mistake, and its accomplice, hope, a treacherous illusion.
This was a legitimate end to a life of illegitimate beginnings.
I would still recommend this book anyway, it’s eye opening. There’s just so much sadness. *sigh. I’d give it 4 out of 5 stars.