The reason I chose this book, like with other books before, was the title. Just like with The Poisonwood Bible, it felt right, like the right choice at the right time. It was.
Hosseini has that amazing talent to make you believe what he writes about is nothing else than the truth, and even though this is a fictional story, it can very well be real.
The book follows the lives of two women coming from different backgrounds yet forced to accept being married off, even though for different reasons. The action takes places in Afghanistan, a country torn by war, first under the communist regime and later on under the Taliban’s rule.
The narrative is clear, precise, and yet full of emotion and what I love the most about it is that it made me care about what happened to the characters from the first page. The reader is introduced to the unusual circumstances of Mariam’s life, her upbringing, her parents’ relationship and her mother’s hard attitude towards men and life in general (Learn this now and learn it well, my daughter: Like a compass needle that points north, a man’s accusing finger always finds a woman. Always. You remember that, Mariam.)
Mariam, the little harami (you will have to read the book to find out what that means) loves both her parents and yet she will come to a point later in life when she will see things from her mother’s perspective. The sheltered life she leads is shattered when she is given away in marriage to a much older man and goes to live with him in another city. Through her eyes we are introduced to a world dominated by men, where a man’s wife is his property, and she must abide by his wishes.
Laila, the other protagonist of the story, is a spirited young girl who dreams of marrying her childhood sweetheart and playing an active role in the future of her country. Many years will pass, measured in hardships and suffering, before she gets to see her dreams come to life.
There were passages in the book I found difficult to read. I had to put it down and then pick it up again because I wanted to see what happened next. I found myself cheering for the two women, admiring their strength and the sacrifices they had to make.
I cannot praise this book highly enough.