The new novel is equally a political story, but played out over thirty years of Afghanistan history. The first book centers around a boy and his maturing, of his life in California aand in Kabul; the second one has a larger cast of characters, a smaller geographical canvas, but here too time is of the essence. Thirty years of war, misery, occupation, Taliban outrages, as they effect two unconnected families in Afghanistan.
Mariam, illegitimate daughter in search of an acknowledgement from her biological father, witness to the suicide of her mother, abused by her terrible and terrifying husband in a marriage arranged by her father, encounters, in this marriage, the new fourteen year old bride of her husband who had decided to take a second wife since the first one had never succeeded in providing him with a son.
I agree, the sentence is too long, but it does summarize this tale. These two women, a generation apart, married to the same disgusting old man, manage, over time, to move from hatred and jealousy of one another, towards love and respect and a sense of belonging together.
"Seasons had come and gone; presidents in Kabul had been inaugurated and murdered; an empire had been defeated; old wars had ended and new ones had broken out. But Mariam hardly noticed, hardly cared...the future did not matter. And the past held only this wisdom: that Love was a damaging mistake and its accomplice, Hope, a treacherous illusion." (p.273)
The book is about understanding and evolving. People can learn to change and to act. Women have power. Even when nothing seems possible, love can grow, faith can be nurtured, hope can find a place.
The descriptions of what happened in those thirty years, are brutal. The cruelty and wanton exercise of rage by men with insane convictions concerning the purpose of life and of Allah's wishes, are close to unbearable and surely not comprehensible. How is it possible for humans to torture one another without end? Ever?
Khaled Hosseini has succeeded in writing a shattering description of modern terror and yet he has given us a story of convincing love between people who have managed to hold on to their capacity to hope. I was moved to tears when I finished the book last night.
Reviewed by Renee Levine