A Thousand Splendid Suns Summary

A Thousand Splendid Suns is a novel by Khaled Hosseini in which Mariam and Laila bond over their shared hardships as the wives of an abusive husband.

  • Mariam is forced to marry Rasheed, an abusive older man.
  • Years later, Laila becomes Rasheed's second wife to hide her pregnancy, as she believes that her child's real father, Tariq, is dead.
  • Laila's child is a girl, much to Rasheed's disappointment. She later has a son.
  • Tariq returns and begins meeting with Laila. Rasheed finds out and attacks Laila. Mariam intervenes and kills Rasheed, sacrificing her life so that Laila and Tariq can escape with the children.


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In A Thousand Splendid Suns, author Khaled Hosseini explores the lives of two women in late-twentieth-century and early-twenty-first-century Afghanistan. The novel opens with the story of Mariam, who at five years old first heard the word harami—bastard. Her father, Jalil, had always called her his little flower, but on this occasion, he mouthed the truth of her birth. Nana, Mariam’s mother, had been one of Jalil’s housekeepers until she became pregnant with his child and was cast out of the house. Jalil had three wives and nine legitimate children, all heirs to his fortune in Herat and its neighboring lands. Jalil did not have enough strength to do the honorable thing and stand up to his wives, so Mariam was sent to live in a kolba, a hut, in the countryside on the outskirts of Gul Daman with her baby. And although Jalil visited, Mariam was never able to escape the circumstances of her birth.

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One day, Bibi jo, an old woman who is a friend of Nana, comes to the kolba and says that two of Jalil’s daughters are being allowed to attend school. Mariam immediately wants the same privilege, but her mother tells her that the only life lesson that she is meant to learn is that of endurance. Mariam resolves to tell her father of her wish—she wants to live in his house in Herat as one of his children. But Mariam keeps this wish to herself, and in the spring of 1974 on her fifteenth birthday, she tells Jalil that as her gift, she wants to go see Pinocchio at the cinema. Both her parents try to persuade her otherwise, but Jalil finally consents to her wish. On the day that Jalil is supposed to take Mariam into town, he never arrives, and Mariam sits waiting until her legs are stiff. Then, she does what she has never done before—she crosses the stream and walks to Herat.

Once in town, a driver offers Mariam a ride to Jalil’s house. She is not welcomed into the home and is told that Jalil is away on business. Mariam spends the night sleeping outside the house. The next day, she forces herself into the open gates of the garden. Jalil’s driver catches her and takes her home. But Mariam has already seen Jalil’s shocked face in an upstairs window, and on the drive home she cries, understanding that her father has betrayed her and that she has disgraced herself. When they arrive at the hut, Mariam finds Nana hanging from a branch of the weeping willow tree.

Because her mother is now dead, Jalil takes Mariam into his home, but she spends most of her time alone in her room. A week later, Afsoon, one of Jalil’s wives, summons Mariam. The family tells Mariam that she will be married off to a suitor named Rasheed who is much older than Mariam. She does not want to get married and pleads with Jalil, but the marriage is arranged anyway.

The couple take a bus to Rasheed’s home in Deh-Mazang in Kabul. Mariam must pay close attention while speaking with Rasheed because she is not accustomed to his dialect and accent. Once at the home, Mariam cries because the houses are so close together and the space is small. Rasheed insists that Mariam will like her new home, but for the next few days, Mariam stays locked away in her room. Soon, Rasheed insists that Mariam assume her responsibilities as housewife and that she...

(The entire section contains 2420 words.)

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