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Reader’s Den

A Thousand Splendid Suns: Questions for Discussion


A Thousand Splendid Suns starts with a term of abuse thrown at one of the protagonists — Mariam — by her mother: "harami." The word means illegitimate and would be deeply hurtful to someone from a culture that prizes patriarchy. To be without her father's name and patronage is Mariam's curse. It shapes her character and her destiny. What is interesting is that despite Jalil Khan's rejection and Nana's warnings, Mariam worships her father. Her feelings for Nana are more ambivalent. Nana's depression and epilepsy make her a difficult parent but she tries to forearm Mariam by telling her, " ... a man's accusing finger always finds a woman. Always." Mariam will remember this all her life.

  1. What does the location (on the outskirts of Gul Daman) of the hut that Nana and Mariam live in tell us about their position in Jalil's life and in the community?
  2. What kind of a mother is Nana? Do you believe Nana's account of Mariam's birth?
  3. Can we understand Jalil's refusal to see his daughter when she comes to Herat? Could he have been thinking of her welfare by arranging her marriage to Rasheed?
  4. What is your take on Mullah Faizullah explanation of Nana's behavior? Is Nana a sympathetic character?


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My favorite thing about

My favorite thing about Khaled Hosseini's writing is the different emotions he evokes. As I was reading the book Nana's character was pretty clear. She was not a good mother and she was constantly lying to Mariam. Right from the first page I couldn't believe Nana raised a daughter who was as intelligent as Mariam. There is Nana calling her own daughter a "harami" and simple Mariam wondering how can an innocent child be a harami and not the people that actually committed the act. The reader can dislike Nana for the way she constantly tries to manipulate her daughter but at the same time, as a female a part of me feels very very sad for a woman who'll never have the opportunity to be called someone's wife. Mariam's father isn't a saint either, instead of standing up for his daughter he lets his wives make the crucial decision of Mariam's wedding. It really makes you think how two very sad characters (Nana and Jalil) create such a daughter for whom the reader wants to applaud at every stage.

Excellent points, Moon

Excellent points, Moon Willow! Although the reader is unable to empathize with Nana's manipulation of her daughter, it is also clear that her own harsh circumstances have shaped Nana's parenting. Also, she does try -- in her own way -- to prepare Mariam for a future without her father's public acceptance. Jalil's reponse is harder to understand. He is successful and rich and has the power to change Mariam's life for the better. Why does he not insist on her attending school like his other (legitimate) daughters? Why does he let Afsoon, Khadija and Nargis marry his daughter away to a man who is clearly jaded and cynical?

I just finished reading this

I just finished reading this wonderful story and I have been very emotional since. From the first page I was whisked away to another land with social norms and cultural traditions I am unfamiliar and horrified of. I never understood the Afghanistan war, why it started, what they were fighting for, why the U.S. was involved. I now know a little more, but I am also appalled at the way women are treated there. I know here in the U.S. we have our own domestic violence issues, but atleast we have laws against it and anyone, man or women, that finds themselves in these types of situations can get help to get out and start a new life. That is not possible in the middle east where "... in the eyes of the Taliban, being a communist ... (was) only slightly more comtemptible than a woman." I cried through out the book, not only for my understanding of the issues involved in domestic violence and the violent acts of some men against women, but also because this could very well have been me. I am so grateful to live in the USA, to have all I do, to have the freedom to come and go as I please, work as I wish and even say "NO". I will be rereading this book again, slowly, thoughtfully and allowing my emotions to lead me to higher understanding.

An amazing book written by

An amazing book written by Khaled Hosseini and a page turner through and through.I really enjoyed your review and i personally agree with a lot of things that you have voiced in your review.I also felt that the book truly portrays the plight of women and how they overcome the difficult situations..i have my self written review on this book and would deeply appreciate if you could take few minutes out of your time and comment on it. Great post by the way. Thanks for sharing. Kind regards, Andy Moquin Buffalo, New York, USA

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