About the Book

Book Protagonist: Mariam and Laila
Publication Date: 2007
Genre: Coming of Age, Drama

Plot Summary

A Thousand Splendid Suns

By Khaled Hosseini

'A Thousand Splendid Suns' is about Mariam and Laila, two Afghan women, whose paths meet after being coerced into union with the same cruel husband. In a patriarchal culture during times of conflict and hardship, the narrative describes their battles to remain alive and fight against injustice.

Two Afghan women, Mariam and Laila, are forced into marriage to the same cruel man, Rasheed, in Khaled Hosseini’s book A Thousand Splendid Suns,‘ which chronicles the narrative of how their lives become interwoven. The tale highlights their battles against oppression, war, poverty, and the harsh patriarchal society in which they reside. Mariam and Laila grow close throughout the novel, eventually being one another’s only source of comfort and hope. In the end, they can get past their difficulties and discover a means to create a brighter future for their family.

In ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns‘ by Khaled Hosseini, there are four sections. Mariam, a small child born in Afghanistan in the 1950s, is the focus of Part 1’s story. The early years of Laila, who was born in Kabul in the late 1970s, are discussed in Part 2. In Part 3, the lives of the two ladies collide. Laila is the narrator of Part 4. Power battles on a national and international scale devastate Afghanistan and the lives of both women throughout the novel.

A Thousand Splendid Suns Summary Part 1

Warning – This article contains important details and spoilers

Part 1 centers on Mariam and her mother, Nana, formerly Jalil’s housekeeper. Jalil, a successful businessman in Herat, has three wives. Nana was expelled from the home after he caused her to become pregnant. In 1959, Mariam was born. Jalil travels miles from his home every Thursday to visit Mariam and constructed Nana a kolba, or hut. Nana warns Mariam as she gets older that Jalil is deceiving her with his lavish presents and his devotion, but Mariam idolizes him. Nana advises Mariam’s Koran instructor, Mullah Faizullah, not to send her to school because she has little faith in Mariam’s chances as a harami, a kid born out of wedlock. Mariam informs Jalil that she wants to attend the movie Pinocchio at the municipal theater he owns when she is 15 years old. Although he advises against it, she persists and eventually persuades him to meet her there and drive her there. Mariam is being shamed into staying home by Nana, who is unhappy. Mariam decides to travel to Herat in search of Jalil after he fails to arrive. She approaches an elderly man operating a horse-drawn cart and asks for instructions. The elderly man decides to drop Mariam off at Jalil’s residence as it is on his way home.

Jalil’s driver tells Mariam to leave the house because Jalil is not there, but Mariam resists. She waits for someone to let her inside while she sits outside. She waits all night, dozing off on the porch, waking up with a blanket covering her. The chauffeur promises to take her home when she gets there in the morning, but she heads straight toward Jalil’s garden. A face can be seen at the window when she glances up. Jalil answers the door and draws the drapes. Mariam is kicked and screamed at as the driver picks her up and loads her into the vehicle. She understands that her father had given her permission to spend the entire night on the streets. Mariam exits the vehicle. The driver hurries to re-insert her, but it’s too late. Mariam witnessed her mother’s hanging death from a tree. Mariam is returned to Jalil by the driver, who is forced to provide her with a place to stay. Instead of dining with the family downstairs, she remains in a guest room and eats there. Jalil, who is uncomfortable with her presence there, quickly permits her to remain in her room. One of Jalil’s wives summons her downstairs after a few days. Jalil has consented to give Mariam in marriage to a widower from Kabul named Rasheed, who is a shoemaker and far older than she is.

During her first week of marriage, Mariam primarily stays in her room, which is apart from Rasheed’s. Rasheed tells her he detests her crying and that he anticipates her acting more like a wife by the end of the week. The following day, Mariam attempts to bring the dough to the nearby tandoor, the oven where the ladies of the neighborhood bake their bread, but their inquiries overwhelm her, and she is forced to return home, feeling dreadfully alone. Rasheed brings a burqa home for Mariam to wear, informing her that only her spouse should be concerned about her appearance. The following day, when he visits with people he knows, he gives Mariam a tour of the neighborhood without introducing her to anyone or allowing her to interact with them. Later that evening, he visits her room and demands that they have a sexual encounter. She is forced to consent, and the rest of the night is spent in agony.

A Thousand Splendid Suns Summary Part 2

Now nine years old, Tariq, Laila’s best friend, has left her feeling abandoned. Yet Tariq will return, says her father Babi (referred to as Hakim in Part 1). While she’s not battling with Babi, Mammy (referred to as Fariba in Part 1) is frequently in bed. Ahmad and Noor, Mammy’s sons, have joined the rebels battling the Soviets, and while she despises them, she does not want to lose them. She accuses Babi of allowing them to enlist with the Mujahideen. Babi has lost other things as a result of the Communists, such as his teaching position. So, to make ends meet, he must work at a bakery. Laila’s instructor disallows girls in her class from donning a hijab or headscarf, since she backs the Soviet Union. Laila observes a blue Benz automobile in front of Rasheed and Mariam’s home as she and her friends Hasina and Giti walk home from school together because Mammy neglected to pick Laila up once more. Then Khadim, a little boy, chases Laila while spraying her hair with a water cannon dripping with pee. Laila, sobbing and angry, rushes home. Mammy sympathizes, but after learning that Laila has had a bath, she retires to bed. A few days later, Tariq returns, and Laila spends time with him and his parents, who call her their “daughter-in-law” with affection.

Because Mammy stays in bed, Laila and her father eat dinner by themselves. Babi informs Laila that the Soviet Union is improving conditions for women. They are attempting to raise the marriage age to 16 and ban forced marriage in addition to emancipating women in the workplace and schools. They learn that Ahmad and Noor had perished in battle when a stranger comes to the door. The following day during the funeral, Mammy is unable to talk, and Laila, who hardly knew her elder brothers, is unable to cry. Her only thought is that of her “real brother.” Babi tells Laila he dreams of going to America to flee the conflict as he takes her and Tariq to view the two enormous stone Buddhas at Bamiyan. But, Mammy would never accompany him, and he is unable to leave without her, as Babi and Laila are aware. Mammy desires to remain to witness Mujahideen’s triumph against the Soviets. Mammy is not sure if the Soviets’ departure in April 1988 constitutes a meaningful victory. They witness the final Communists leaving the city a few months later. After three years, the Soviets placed Mohammad Najibullah (1947–1996) as their leader. He poses as a Muslim but is eventually overthrown and ends up hiding in the UN compound. Mammy organizes a sizable party to celebrate, beaming now. Laila gets reprimanded by Mammy for her proximity to Tariq at the party because she is concerned about her reputation. He’s only a friend, Laila insisted.

Tariq continues entering the kitchen as Laila and her friends are cooking to steal food. He eventually catches Laila’s attention and motions for her to follow. She waits for five minutes before leaving. When discussing how others perceive them, Tariq quips that he only has eyes for Laila. Later, to Laila’s horror, a brawl breaks out between a Tajik and a Pashtun, and Tariq gets involved. The government’s executive branch is also terrible. Burhanuddin Rabbani (1940–2011), a Tajik by ethnicity, is president; Tajik leader Ahmad Shah Massoud (1953–2001) makes peace appeals; and all of the factions turn on one another. Civil war has erupted in Afghanistan. Because of his father’s heart issues and inability to subsist in Kabul, Tariq and his parents decide to move to Pakistan. Tariq and Laila fall in love. Laila can’t leave her father alone, despite Tariq’s desire to marry her. The family of Tariq goes. Babi can persuade Mammy to leave Kabul two weeks later. The house is destroyed by a shell as the family leaves. The lone survivor is Laila. She goes in and out of consciousness, unable to hear, seeing shadows and a man’s face before seeing the long, narrow face of a lady who gives her pink pills to ease her pain and help her fall asleep once again. The pink pills help her feel better and allow her to go back to sleep.

A Thousand Splendid Suns Summary Part 3

Mariam cares for Laila, who has been ill for days. Rasheed buys Babi’s vitamins and saves some of her books. He boasts that he was the one who pulled her from the rubble and makes up stories about the metal fragment he removed from her shoulder. Even though he is aware that it will anger Laila, he informs her that the Pashtun guys are now living at Tariq’s house. Mariam tries to come up with consoling ideas for Laila. A month after Laila’s recuperation, Abdul Sharif appears and requests to speak with her. He claims that Tariq lost his other leg and passed away while they were both hospitalized. According to Sharif, Tariq wanted Laila to know that he loved her. Rasheed makes a show of apologizing to Laila and then exhibits uncharacteristic behavior. He asks her opinion on current political events politely, uses a napkin, and makes the flat-out false claim that he used to frequently discuss politics with Babi. Mariam also observes that since Laila entered the family, Rasheed has not hit her. She recognizes Rasheed’s courtship of Laila. Rasheed responds to Mariam’s question by warning that if he doesn’t marry the 14-year-old girl in the house, people will speak about him. He believes that leaving her in the street, where she would either be raped or forced to become a prostitute, is the only other option. Mariam is incensed that she has been designated as a co-wife or an ambagh. Laila concurs.

Even after learning of Tariq’s passing, Laila had meant to go to Pakistan. However, when she found out she was expecting a child, she knew she had to stay with Rasheed to ensure the well-being of their unborn child. While knowing it is unethical to treat Mariam this way, she believes she has no other option. On the eve of their wedding, Rasheed visits her for sex. When he falls asleep, she uses a concealed knife to slash one of her fingers, dripping blood into the bed sheets. Rasheed will believe that he has stolen her virginity as a result, and he will accept the child as his own. Rasheed joyfully informs Mariam in front of Laila that Laila is pregnant. This won’t stop her from doing duties, Mariam assures Laila. The following winter, Laila is confined to her home while warfare breaks out in Kabul. Even after their first altercation, Laila makes an effort to shield Mariam from criticism or physical abuse. Rasheed is stern and irate, and the infant is a girl. Laila’s intent on soothing the infant and the commotion are both intolerable to him. Additionally, he insisted that she dress the youngster in the clothes he had purchased for him. Rasheed becomes aggressive and accuses Mariam when Laila refuses to have sex with him. He then pursues her with a belt. Laila tries to stop him by promising to comply with his requests. Rasheed halts but informs Mariam he knows what Laila and she are up to, and he won’t let them conspire against him. To have sex, he forces Laila back into the bedroom.

Mariam understands that despite Rasheed’s abuse, she has been a wonderful wife to him and never deserved the brutality he has perpetrated upon her. Rasheed turns to Laila after she throws a glass in his direction, attacking her, and chokes her. Mariam hurries to the shed and grabs a shovel as soon as she sees he’s going to strangle Laila. Rasheed’s name is yelled at when she enters again. She smacks him in the head with the shovel when he looks up at her and falls to the ground. She briefly believes she may make out regret in his eyes, but when he sneers, she understands what she must do. Rasheed is killed by Mariam after she drives the shovel’s blade into his chest. Laila urges Mariam to accompany her on the escape to Pakistan, and Tariq’s safety. Mariam explains to Laila that she is unable to leave because she will never be able to face Zalmai again, knowing that she took away his father. She instructs Laila to see Aziza while also preparing dinner for Zalmai. Laila is advised by Mariam to remain subdued and board a bus to the orphanage. They never cross paths again. Mariam admits guilt before the judges after serving ten days in jail. Laila is the only witness she has, and the judges won’t let a woman testify. No matter what her husband did, according to one judge, she must be punished for killing him. She is given the death penalty.

A Thousand Splendid Suns Summary Part 4

Nowadays, Laila and Tariq are a married couple raising Aziza and Zalmai. They reside in Murree, where Tariq and Laila have been providing hotel owner Sayeed with room cleaning services. Sayeed arranged for the mullah, an educated religious man, to officiate their wedding. Aziza is informed by Laila that Tariq is her father and that he adores her, protects her from harm, and won’t ever abandon her. Laila must deceive Zalmai by informing him his father has left and she is unsure of his return date. Any presents Tariq offers Zalmai, he rejects. Laila can indulge in the fantasy that they are an ordinary family with no secrets when Tariq takes the family on outings to parks and shopping centers. Aziza nevertheless continues to have nightmares, while Laila frequently has dreams in which she is at the Kabul house. Mariam can be heard singing, but when she opens the door, she is not there. Laila constantly feels utterly crushed by this loss when she awakens. Laila recalls seeing her parents being blasted apart by shelling when Tariq informs her one day that Massoud has been dead. Although her mother loved and believed in Massoud to bring peace to Afghanistan, the violence continued to deteriorate. The terrorist organization al-Qaeda claims responsibility for his slaying. Two days later, Tariq and Laila learn from the news that planes crashed into the two towers in America. Osama bin Laden, the head of al-Qaeda, cannot be turned up to authorities, according to the Taliban, since it is unethical for Pashtuns to turn over a visitor. Tariq finds it repulsive that they are misrepresenting a religious practice of his people to use it as an excuse for their behavior.

Laila reacts angrily to Tariq’s assertion that this conflict might not be all that horrible. There is no way that bombs falling on Kabul will be good for anyone since innocent people will get hurt, and she lost her parents to war. She realizes they are having their first argument, and Tariq tries to comfort her. Laila is aware that US engagement could put an end to the fighting, but it is absurd to argue that it is better to have war than to have peace. Suddenly Zalmai starts coughing as she awakens. Tariq approaches him, takes him up, and comforts him by guiding him around the space. Tariq returns Zalmai to his bed after he is calm and quiet. Tariq’s cheeks are dripping with tears, as Laila can see. The Taliban have been driven from major cities by July 2002. In addition to Hamid Karzai, a temporary Afghan president, Kabul is home to peacekeeping forces. Roads are being paved, schools are being constructed, and women are returning to the workforce. Laila desires to return to Kabul to inform her mother of the peace and to determine Mariam’s whereabouts. Laila also wants to help with the reconstruction of Kabul because it is her hometown. Tariq promises to follow her wherever she goes.

Laila and Tariq are residing in a leased home in Deh-Mazang in April 2003. They are employed at the orphanage, which was renovated with their assistance the previous month. Zaman, the director, still works there, and Laila teaches. Kabul is gradually regaining some of its former charms, but Laila finds it repugnant that warlords are now part of the administration. She is aware that Mariam would not want her to harbor grudges, though. Laila can’t go to Mariam’s tomb since she doesn’t know where she is interred, but Mariam is always with her. She is present in every modification they have made to the orphanage and in every child who resides there. Mariam “is in Laila’s own heart,” gleaming “with the bursting splendor of a thousand suns,” more than anything else. Laila touches her stomach, where she had sensed movement. The family had played a naming game the previous evening to come up with names for the newborn, who would be a male. If the child is a girl, her name will be Mariam.


What is ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns‘ about?

In the book ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns,‘ Mariam and Laila, two women living in Afghanistan amid a time of social and political unrest, recount their experiences. Mariam and Laila’s friendship grows as they overcome challenges like abusive relationships and the dangers of living in a war-torn nation. The book examines issues including women’s oppression, the devastation caused by war, and political conflict.

How does the plot of ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns‘ unfold?

The book’s first section introduces Mariam, a young woman who was born outside of marriage and resides with her mother in a rural village. The story describes the Taliban’s ascent to power and its cruel treatment of women in the third section. The plot culminates in the last section with a shocking development that puts an end to the character arcs.

What is the significance of the title ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns?’

The title ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns‘ is drawn from a poem by the Persian author Saib-e-Tabrizi, who lived in the 17th century. The expression alludes to the grace and tenacity of nature, and in the context of the story, it might be seen as a representation of optimism and fortitude in the face of adversity. The term also implies that despite adversity, there are several tales of beauty and resilience to be found.

Why did Mariam kill Rasheed in ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns?’

Mariam kills Rasheed in an act of self-defense to protect herself and her friend Laila. Rasheed was an abusive husband who subjected both Mariam and Laila to physical and emotional abuse throughout the story. In a critical moment, when Rasheed was about to kill Laila, Mariam struck him with a shovel, causing his death.

Charles Asoluka
About Charles Asoluka
Charles is an experienced content creator, writer, and literary critic. He has written professionally for multiple reputable media organizations. He loves reading Western classics and reviewing them.
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