By Khaled Hosseini
384 pages; Riverhead
I love may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you consider the war-ravaged landscape of Afghanistan. But that is the emotion—subterranean, powerful, beautiful, illicit, and infinitely patient—that suffuses the pages of Khaled Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns. As in his best-selling first novel, The Kite Runner, Hosseini movingly examines the connections between unlikely friends, the fissures that open up between parents and children, the intransigence of quiet hearts. In this new novel, he looks at lives fragmented by conflict, domestic and political, and at human bonds that refuse to break, through the eyes of two deeply passionate women: Mariam, branded as a harami, or bastard, and forced into an abusive marriage at the age of 15, and Laila, a beauty groomed for success but shrouded almost beyond recognition by repressive sharia law and the husband she and Mariam share. The story, epic in scope and spanning three decades, follows these two indomitable women whose fortunes mirror those of their beloved and battered country—"nothing pretty to look at, but still standing"—and who find in each other the strength they need to survive.