Tuesday, January 13, 2009

It's Afghanistanimation, boss!

This week's book comes courtesy of Houseboy's brother, who bought it for me for Christmas.  It's this one: 

"A Thousand Splendid Suns" AKA: "A Novel by the Author of The Kite Runner," which I haven't read because it was recommended to me by too many people.  You know how when the first person recommends a book, you go "Oh, that sounds like my kind of book, I'll find that and read it."  And the second person who recommends it, you say "What a coincidence!  First Person just recommended that to me recently, but I have not read it yet, I will look into this for sure!"  And then a THIRD person recommends it, and you go "What are you trying to pull, Mister?  I already heard about this book and it is on my list!"  And by the time a fourth and fifth person recommend it, you're all "I am NOT reading the next Da Vinci Code you blathering rabble!  Fool me once, shame on you and all that."  And then you vow to never crack that book because it's obviously a conspiracy.  

Well, that kind of happened with "The Kite Runner."  So, when I got this book for Christmas I was secretly happy because it gave me a good reason to read something by the author without actually reading the apparently MONDO popular one everyone recommended* to me.  And, as it turns out, this was really good!  It is possible that The Kite Runner will be good too, so it goes back on my list.

"A Thousand Splendid Suns" follows two women through the course of Afghani history from the early 60's through about 2003.  It's one of those novels that actually teaches you a little something about history if you pay some attention, which can be a good thing.  I liked learning about the Congo in The Poisonwood Bible and about India in Midnight's Children, and this book takes a similar approach.  It reveals the complexities of change and conflict in Afghanistan through the daily events in characters' lives.  Mariam and Laila are fascinating characters with great dramatic potential in their lives, even without a series of destructive wars landing in their backyards.  It is these wars, however, that escalate their own personal struggles and eventually bring them together.  

It's a terribly wonderfully upsetting novel, with grand lanscapes of tragedy and humanity and joy and pain and all that.  If I can give just one *spoiler alert* moment, however.  I spent probably the last forty to fifty pages (and particularly the last ten or so) convinced that absolutely every character was going to die, suddenly and unexpectedly.  Or, worse, that every character but one would die, leaving one of our heroines to wander the war-torn Afghani lanscape, brittle and alone.  Let me just assure you that that does not happen.  Some people do live, as it turns out.  

So, go buy it or check it out of your library on that recommendation: not everyone dies.

* Not sure if you noticed, but that makes seven times I have used a version of the word "recommend."

1 comment:

  1. Honestly, you have a much lower tolerance for repetition than anyone else on the planet and I'm sure it took you an extra 45 minutes to post this blog because of your annoyance over the recurrence of "recommend" or some variation. Dude, it's not a big deal. I applaud you for allowing it to be there a total of 9 times!!

    More to the point, maybe I'll read this one. I certainly need to learn about Afghani culture and history, and like you I couldn't stand to read The Kite Runner either! God! Do you remember all of those people reading it and discussing it at the lunch table!? Yuck!